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 A Ripperologist Article 
This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 69, July 2006. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.
Smith's Beat
Gavin Bromley

In the early hours of 30 September, 1888, the body of Elizabeth Stride was discovered in Dutfield’s Yard adjoining the International Working Men’s Educational Club at no. 40, Berner Street, in the area covered by the beat of PC William Smith 452H. The time was about 1am and PC Smith had passed Stride talking to a man at a time stated by the constable to be between 12:30 and 12:35am. The accepted belief is that Smith saw Stride and this man 25 to 30 minutes before her body was discovered.

At the inquest, Smith said that the man he saw with Elizabeth Stride was about 5 ft 7 in and about 28 years old. He could not see much of his face, but could see he had no whiskers. He said the man was of respectable appearance, wore a hard felt deerstalker hat of dark colour and dark clothes – an overcoat (a cutaway coat according to the account in the Telegraph) and dark trousers – and had a newspaper parcel in his hand about 18 inches in length and six to eight inches wide.

In Swanson’s report of 19 October, the description of the man attributed to Smith is given as: aged about 28, height 5 ft 7 in, complexion dark, small dark moustache, wearing a black diagonal coat, hard felt hat, white collar and tie. As with many aspects of the case, there appears to be a contradiction in the records available. The ‘small dark moustache’ in Swanson’s report seems to contradict the account of ‘no whiskers’ given in the newspaper reports of Smith’s inquest testimony (both the Times and Telegraph reported Smith as saying that), unless by ‘no whiskers’ Smith just meant no beard or sideburns. If he could not see much of the man’s face, then perhaps he could see from the side that he did not have a beard or sideburns, but was maybe unable to clearly see if there was a moustache or not, particularly if it was ‘small’. However, this does not account for the certainty in Swanson’s report that Smith said the man had a moustache. It could be that the newspaper accounts of the inquest testimony missed out some crucial words and Smith actually said ‘no whiskers on his chin’ for example, or it could be that Smith said in his original report that he thought the man may have had a moustache, but the uncertainty was lost in Swanson’s summary of the description. However, the significance of Smith’s sighting has been diminished because of reported sightings of Stride with another man or men at the later time of about 12:45am.

But let’s take a closer look at the events in and around Berner Street that night.

First of all let’s examine the route that PC Smith took on his beat.

The Route

From the account at the inquest, his beat started from Gower’s Walk (marked ‘1’ on Map 1), went eastward along Commercial Road as far as Christian Street, south down Christian Street as far as Fairclough Street, eastward along Fairclough Street as far as Grove Street, turning round and back westward along Fairclough Street, as far as Backchurch Lane, then up to Commercial Road taking in the interior roads including Berner Street and Batty Street. Presumably, the circuit was then completed by heading westward along Commercial Road to the start point at the corner of Gower’s Walk. This route is shown in Map 1 below.

Map 1: Smith’s beat as described at Stride's inquest

But where did Berner Street and Batty Street fit in? It could be that he went up one road and then down the next; for example, up Batty Street from Fairclough then briefly westward along Commercial Road as far as Berner Street then down Berner Street. However, Smith said ‘having gone round my beat, [I] was at the Commercial Road corner of Berner Street again at one o’clock’ as though that was the only visit to Berner Street on a circuit of his beat and he approached it from Commercial Road. On the other hand, when he talked about passing Stride and the man she was with, he said that he then headed up Berner Street toward Commercial Road. So, it appears that the Berner Street part of his beat started from Commercial Road, went down as far as the junction with Fairclough Street, then back up again to Commercial Road. For him to pass Stride and the man nearly opposite Dutfield’s Yard on his way back to Commercial Road means he would have walked as far as the junction with Fairclough Street. As we will see, this appears to be the only route to make sense in terms of what he said and what he did not see or hear in the immediate aftermath of the body being discovered. He could not first have gone up Berner Street from Fairclough Street before coming back down from Commercial Road as then he would have heard the commotion of people running up and down Fairclough Street. This route is shown in Map 2 below.

Map 2

The same probably applied to Batty Street, as well, in that he would have walked up and down that street. However, we do not have any information to infer whether he walked down Batty Street from Commercial Road then back up, as we can with Berner Street (see Map 3a), or walked up from Fairclough Street as far as Commercial Road and then turned around to return to Fairclough Street (see Map 3b).

Map 3a

Map 3b

Another ‘interior road’ not covered so far is Sander Street which ran east to west between Berner Street and Backchurch Lane. If Sander Street was included, then he possibly went along it from Berner Street – walking westward and then turning and walking back. If he had walked along it from Backchurch Lane then again he would likely have heard the commotion following the discovery of the body as he approached Berner Street five or so minutes before he first saw the crowd outside Dutfield’s Yard from Commercial Road. He could have walked along Sander Street as part of his southward walk down Berner Street or as part of the northward walk back to Commercial Road. This would probably be on the southward part as he would approach Berner Street from the west and therefore be walking on the western side of Berner Street going down and as Sander Street was on the western side of Berner Street, it would make sense for him to walk along it then. See Map 4 below.

There are also the side streets and courts off Berner Street, Batty Street and Backchurch Lane. At the point in Smith’s testimony, as reported by the Times, where he said he passed Stride and went directly up Berner Street to Commercial Road, he continued with a seemingly irrelevant statement about a court half way along Berner Street that went all the way across to Backchurch Lane. This court appears to start between nos. 30 and 32 Berner Street and after a few twists and turns becomes a wider ‘path’ leading to Backchurch Lane (marked in yellow on Map 5). The testimony as reported in the papers was not always accurate and at times the answers seemed inappropriate to the questions. It is not clear why this court is mentioned unless Smith said that he actually went across it from Berner Street before returning to Berner Street to continue to Commercial Road, but if so, this was not reported properly. It may be that he also went into the streets and courts that were on the western side of Backchurch Lane between Fairclough Street and Commercial Road. Also, there are courts between Batty Street and Christian Street.

Map 4

Sander Street and the court between Berner Street and Backchurch Lane could have formed part of the beat while going south down Berner Street, while going north up Berner Street or while going north up Backchurch Lane. There is also the possibility that the eastern half of the court was patrolled from Berner Street, and the western half from Backchurch Lane. Also, there could have been a route that went north up Berner Street as far as the court, across the court to Backchurch Lane, north up Backchurch Lane as far as Sander Street, then east along Sander Street back to Berner Street to continue north to get back to Commercial Road.

There is no way of knowing exactly how his route worked with the side streets and courts, or how many were actually included on his beat. Remember, there were houses in Dutfield’s Yard but Smith did not patrol there, presumably as it was private property and there was a gate that would block his path if the residents or club closed it. So not all of the courts seen on the map may have been patrolled by Smith. A slow walking pace is considered to be about 1m/s (2.24 mph) or less, and an average pace is considered to be about 1.5m/s (3.36 mph) with a policeman on his beat generally considered somewhere between these but nearer the slower pace, about 1.12m/s (2.5 mph). By contrast a soldier quick marches at about 2.24m/s (five mph). As we will see later, the route without the courts and side streets on the western side of Backchurch Lane, would have Smith walking at about 0.83m/s (1.85 mph), which I thought may have had him walking a bit slowly. However, when I looked at the beat of PC Watkins who discovered the body of Catherine Eddowes, I found that he was walking an average of about 0.73m/s (at best) to cover his beat (about 575m) in twelve minutes (he actually said it took twelve to fourteen minutes). So it may be that Smith walked none of the courts or side streets off Backchurch Lane.

Another point to note about his beat is that as it went westward along Fairclough Street as far as Backchurch Lane, Smith would have to pass the junction of Berner Street with Fairclough Street between his visits down Berner Street. So there was another part of his beat where he passed within about 15m of Dutfield’s Yard. He would have passed this point between the time he saw Stride with the man and the time when he returned to Berner Street.

On Map 5 below, point 1 is the starting point of his beat as given in the report, the corner of Gower’s Walk and Commercial Road; point 2 is where Smith started walking down Berner Street; and point 3 is where he passed within 15m of Dutfield’s Yard (marked in blue) along Fairclough Street.

Timings for his beat

So what times did Smith give regarding his beat? He said the whole of his beat took 25 – 30 minutes to complete. He said that he passed Stride and a man at sometime between 12:30 and 12:35. He also tells us that he returned to Berner Street from Commercial Road at 1am and saw a crowd of people outside Dutfield’s Yard. When he got to the yard he said that he saw Police Constables 252H and 12HR already there with the body. He said that he had returned to Berner Street as part of his normal beat and not because he had been called. The gates to the yard were still open at that point. He saw that the woman was dead and then left to fetch an ambulance. As he was leaving, the assistant of the doctor who had been called arrived.

Map 5

Diemshutz, however, said that he returned to Dutfield’s Yard in his pony and cart at 1am. He said it was exactly 1am because he saw the clock at the baker’s on the corner of Berner Street with Commercial Road. Though, whether the clock read one o’clock at that point or it was about a minute before and he inferred that it was exactly 1am by the time he discovered the body he did not say. Moreover, it would have been a few minutes before the other policemen arrived. So what time did PC Smith arrive back at Berner Street?

The events following the discovery of Elizabeth Stride’s body

Louis Diemshutz came down Berner Street from Commercial Road with his pony and cart. As he came through the gates into Dutfield’s Yard, his pony seemed to shy to the left. He looked down to see why and noticed the ground was uneven. He prodded it with his whip and then got down to see what it was. He struck a match to get a bit of light to see. It was windy but he saw enough to realize it was a woman. He could not tell if she was dead or drunk. Diemshutz immediately went into the club and found his wife and some club members in the front room downstairs and told them there was a woman lying outside in the yard, but that he did not know if she was dead or drunk. He then got a candle and returned outside to take a better look. He saw that there was a stream of blood from the body towards the club door. At seeing the blood he ran off to get the police along with a man named Isaacs.

Morris Eagle said that he had returned to the club between 12:35 to 12:40 after taking his lady friend home. The front door had been closed, so he went through the passage to the yard to the back door. There was nobody in the yard at that time. On entering the club, he went upstairs. About 20 minutes later he said that Gilleman (Gidleman according to another account) came upstairs to say there was a woman dead in the back yard. Eagle went downstairs with a man called Isaac. As he got outside he saw Diemshutz and another (one account says that Eagle saw ‘Jacobs and another’) running out of the yard towards Fairclough Street to get help. He struck a match to look at the body. He saw the blood and ran out of the yard towards Commercial Road rather than following Diemshutz and the other man, all the time shouting ‘Police’.

If Gilleman did say that the woman was dead, did he go upstairs after Diemshutz had returned outside and saw the blood or was he just economic with passing on what Diemshutz had said when he first came in? However, Diemshutz said he ran for the police as soon as he saw the blood and, if Gilleman only went upstairs at that point, then Eagle would not have got downstairs in time to see Diemshutz running off for the police. So Gilleman seems to have just picked up on the ‘dead’ part of Diemshutz’s statement and passed that on to the club members upstairs, or they only picked up on the ‘dead’ part of what he said.

Although not called to the inquest, Isaac Kozebrodsky gave an interview in the press. He said that he ran out of the yard with Diemshutz. He was more familiarly known as Isaacs, so Diemshutz, referring to him as such, confirmed in his account that it was he and Kozebrodsky who ran along Fairclough Street. ‘Jacobs’ appears to have been wrongly transcribed by the Times since the same statement by Eagle, as recorded in the Telegraph, states it was ‘Diemshutz and another’ who ran from the yard. Isaacs appears to be a different person than Isaac, the man Eagle ran downstairs with, but they could have been the same person. Kozebrodsky said that he ran out of the yard with Diemshutz towards Fairclough Street and then along there as far as Grove Street. Diemshutz said that they ran past a couple of streets and not seeing any policeman started to shout ‘Police’ and ‘Murder’ as loudly as they could. Edward Spooner stood on the corner of Christian Street and Fairclough Street with a woman and said he saw a couple of men running towards him shouting ‘Police’ and ‘Murder’ and they ran past him as far as Grove Street. They then turned round and came back. Spooner stopped them to ask what the matter was. They told him and he said that he returned with them to Dutfield’s Yard. However, Kozebrodsky said in the press report that he did not return to the yard. Instead, he ran to Commercial Road to see if he could find a policeman and came across two of them (on the corner with Grove Street according to him), who then returned with him to Dutfield’s Yard.

In the meantime, Eagle had run to Commercial Road and turned eastward. He gave a similar account about finding a couple of policemen at the corner of Grove Street who returned with him to Dutfield’s Yard. PC Henry Lamb 252H said he saw two men running toward him as he was between Christian and Batty streets. So from these three accounts it seems that Kozebrodsky ran up Christian Street or Batty Street after leaving Diemshutz and Spooner, and then met Eagle as the latter ran along Commercial Road from Berner Street. The other policeman with Lamb was a fixed point officer PC 426H, whose point of duty was between Christian Street and Grove Street.

Lamb says he was between Christian Street and Batty Street (and not Grove Street as stated by both Eagle and Kozebrodsky) when the men approached, so Kozebrodsky more likely came up Batty Street. Eagle and Kozebrodsky both say they saw the policemen at Grove Street, which was where PC426H was on fixed point duty. So it could be that Lamb was wrong about his location when the club members approached him. Incidentally, Lamb said he had passed the top of Berner Street six or seven minutes earlier, which would have been between 12:55 and 1:00. Eagle and Kozebrodsky told the officers that there had been a murder and Lamb asked where. They got as far as the corner of Berner Street and then Eagle and Kozebrodsky indicated towards the club. Lamb then ran down Berner Street with PC 426H following.

In the meantime, Diemshutz had got back to the yard with Spooner. According to several witnesses, including Spooner himself, Spooner lifted Stride’s chin and they saw the big gash in her throat. Diemshutz said it was at that point that the policemen arrived. However, when Lamb and the others got there no one was touching the body. Lamb would have prevented anyone apart from another police officer or a doctor from touching it once he was there, so Spooner and Diemshutz must have got back before Lamb. Spooner said it was four or five minutes after they arrived that the police arrived, but this was probably an exaggeration. Comments were made in the press that there was quite a delay (‘a considerable delay’ according to the Morning Advertiser 1 October, 1888) after the body was discovered before the police got to the yard, with Diemshutz saying it was seven minutes (as stated in the Star 1 October, 1888). Another explanation is that Kozebrodsky returned to the yard with Diemshutz and Spooner and then set off with Eagle. There are contradictions in the story in that one account by Diemshutz said that the police arrived as they got back, but Spooner said it was four or five minutes later that the police arrived. Kozebrodsky then leaving with Eagle would fit with Spooner’s account, but Eagle says that he left straight after seeing the blood. On balance, the last account seems the most likely with Eagle setting off not much longer after Diemshutz and Kozebrodsky, with Kozebrodsky separating from Diemshutz and then meeting Eagle in Commercial Road.

When they got to the yard, Lamb shone his light on the body. He then sent PC 426H for the nearest doctor and sent Eagle for the inspector at Leman Street. Lamb then blew his whistle. PC Albert Collins 12HR came at the sound of the whistle. This I deduce from the fact that he was not one of the policemen initially on the scene, but was there by the time Smith got there. Diemshutz refers to more than one policeman coming after the whistle. The second could have been Smith, although he did not come because of hearing the whistle.

James Brown, a witness who lived at 35 Fairclough Street, said he saw a PC at the corner of Christian Street who was then called to Berner Street. This was possibly Collins. If Brown lived at no. 35 he was probably on the northern side of Fairclough Street (as houses in Ellen Street were numbered with the odd numbers on the northern side). Also in his testimony, which will be looked at more closely later, he had to cross the street past a man and a woman to get to the chandler’s shop on the southwest corner of the junction of Berner Street and Fairclough Street. So he would not have been able to see the PC from his window if the PC was at the northern side of the junction. Collins would therefore probably have been at the southern end of the junction of Christian Street and Fairclough Street, so he was possibly on a beat that covered the streets south of Fairclough Street.

The gates were still open when PC Smith arrived. Smith said Lamb and Collins (12HR) were there when he arrived. Smith looked at the victim, and then went to get an ambulance for the body. As he was leaving, he said, the doctor’s assistant arrived. PC 426H had been sent by Lamb to get the doctor and at about 1:10 am (or between 1:05 and 1:10 am according to one account) he called on Dr. Blackwell at 100 Commercial Road, which was on the eastern corner of the junction of Batty Street and Commercial Road (marked in green on Map 6). Edward Johnston, Blackwell’s assistant, left immediately with the PC (Johnston gave the PC’s number as 436H in his testimony). Dr. Blackwell got dressed and followed several minutes later. Blackwell timed his own arrival at the yard, confirmed by Johnston, at 1:16. Johnston said that he had arrived three or four minutes earlier than Blackwell – so that would be about 1:12 or 1:13. Johnston arrived as PC Smith left to get the ambulance. The gates to Dutfield’s Yard were closed by PC Lamb shortly after Johnston arrived. Blackwell said they were closed by the time he arrived. Lamb said in his testimony that the gates were closed while Blackwell examined the body, but Blackwell noted that this was an error when he gave his own testimony.

Witnesses said the doctor arrived 10 minutes after the police and Dr. Blackwell timed that at 1:16. Though some witnesses (including Lamb) possibly thought Johnston, Blackwell’s assistant was the doctor and he arrived at about 1:12.

Map 6: Location of Dr. Blackwell's House

By the time Diemshutz had stopped to check why his pony had shied, gone into the club to tell his wife and the club members downstairs, fetched a candle and gone back outside and for the club members to locate the police it would have been a few minutes after Diemshutz discovered the body by the time Lamb and his colleague came. Just to take some rough timings of events, let’s say that it took 20 to 30 seconds for Diemshutz to initially investigate the ‘uneven ground’, and another 20 to 45 seconds to go inside, tell the others and return outside with the candle and see the blood. So, from first entering the yard to running out of the yard would be somewhere between 40 seconds to a minute and a quarter. From Dutfield’s Yard to Grove Street along Fairclough Street is about 149m. They would not be sprinting, although running fast. Also, they would probably be slowing down to look along side streets as they ran. Working on a figure of about 30–45 seconds for 100m, and allowing for the fact they would probably be slowing down to look along side streets, it would have taken them between 60 and 85 seconds to get to Grove Street.

To return as far as Christian Street and stop to tell Edward Spooner about the discovery, it would possibly have taken another 30–45 seconds before Kozebrodsky ran up Christian Street, which is about 119m long or Batty Street which is about 122m long from Fairclough Street to Commercial Road. He found PC Lamb and PC 426H between Batty Street and Christian Street (according to Lamb) or at the corner of Grove Street (according to Eagle and Kozebrodsky). Without having to look down side roads, but probably tiring Kozebrodsky would have made this in about 60–100 seconds. Therefore, from leaving Dutfield’s Yard to reaching Lamb on Commercial Road would have taken Kozebrodsky about two minutes and 35 seconds to three minutes and 50 seconds. In broad terms, this would be about 2½ minutes to 3¾ minutes. This would therefore have been between 3¼ to 5 minutes following the discovery of Stride’s body.

Eagle would have had to run 113m up Berner Street to get to Commercial Road then about another 70m to get to about halfway between Batty and Christian Streets. This is a total distance of about 180 to 190m. This would have been further if he had to run as far as Grove Street. Without needing to look down side streets, but possibly stopping at the top of Berner Street to look around, Eagle could have done this in about 70–120 seconds. For Kozebrodsky to have roughly caught up with him on Commercial Road means Eagle would possibly have set off running as much as a minute or so after Kozebrodsky and Diemshutz. Eagle implies that he set off directly after Diemshutz and Kozebrodsky. He certainly saw them run from the yard. He may have looked at the body for a few seconds and deliberated whether to go and find the police as well. Or, he may have decided to leave straightaway and go in a different direction to cover more ground and increase the likelihood of finding a policeman. He may even have waited a bit, since the other two had gone to find one, and when he heard them having to shout maybe he decided to look for one in another direction. It could be that Eagle did get to PC Lamb first and Kozebrodsky met up with them a few seconds later. Lamb then broadly described the events as two men running towards him which implies the men were together, when actually they may not have been. Obviously the timings given are rough estimates and there may be a bit of leeway one way or another.

Lamb did not mention running to the end of Berner Street, only that he ran down Berner Street. But they would have gone swiftly to the end of Berner Street. So it could have taken another 50–90 seconds from when the policemen were located to get to the end of Berner Street, given that the police would have taken a bit of time to assess the men’s story. At this point it was between four and 6½ minutes after the discovery of the body and this point is important as this is the position that Smith was at when he said it was 1:00. To run back down to Dutfield’s Yard from the corner of Berner Street would be 35–50 seconds. So when the police first arrived at the scene it would have been about 4½ to 7½ minutes after the discovery of the body. Diemshutz himself gave a time of about seven minutes after the discovery for the police to arrive at Dutfield’s Yard.

Lamb touched the body and warned the people around not to get too close. He sent PC 426H to fetch the doctor and Eagle to fetch the inspector before he blew his whistle. This would probably have been another 30 seconds to a minute after reaching the yard. PC 426H would have set off shortly before the whistle blew, so he would have got to the end of Berner Street, assuming he was running or at least walking quickly, 35–50 seconds after that. 100 Commercial Road was about 50m from the end of Berner Street so this would take another 20–30 seconds. So PC 426H would have got to Dr. Blackwell’s six to ten minutes after the discovery of the body.

Corner of Backchurch Lane and Fairclough Street

Corner of Fairclough Street and Berner Street; cartwheel mounted on wall indicates entrance to Dutfields Yard

Smith had heard none of the shouts by Eagle, Kozebrodsky and Diemshutz. He did not see any of them running. Neither did he see Lamb and PC 426H going with Eagle and Kozebrodsky to Berner Street, nor did he see PC 426H running from Berner Street to Dr. Blackwell’s in Commercial Road. He had only returned to Berner Street as part of his beat, not because he was called. Presumably, he was walking somewhere up Backchurch Lane or Commercial Road between Backchurch Lane and Gower’s Walk when the club members had run off shouting ‘Police’ and ‘Murder’, which he did not hear. Nor did he hear Lamb’s whistle. The policemen Smith saw when he got to the yard were PC 252H (Lamb) and PC 12 HR (Albert Collins), not 426H, who had initially arrived with Lamb. The doctor’s assistant arrived just as Smith left to fetch the ambulance. So Smith got to Dutfield’s Yard while PC 426H had gone to fetch the doctor from Commercial Road. Smith did not say that he had seen a constable coming the other way as he went down Berner Street to see why there was a crowd outside Dutfield’s Yard and he did not say he saw a police officer hurrying (as surely PC 426H was) in Commercial Road. So, by the time he was in a position to see the end of Berner Street, PC 426H was out of sight on the way to, or already at, 100 Commercial Road, or at least, if Smith could see him, then Smith would have seen him when it would not be apparent that the constable had run from Berner Street.

Where would PC Smith have been while all this was happening in the aftermath of the discovery of Stride’s body for him not to hear any of the shouts or the police whistle and not to see anything? Had he still been on the part of his beat prior to reaching the junction with Berner Street along Fairclough Street then he would have seen and heard people running or crowding outside Dutfield’s Yard from that junction before he got to the Berner Street junction with Commercial Road. Presumably he was walking somewhere up Backchurch Lane or Commercial Road between Backchurch Lane and Gower’s Walk. Had he been walking up Backchurch Lane, then he surely would have heard Eagle’s shouts in the next street. However, if Eagle had not started shouting until he had got part or most of the way up Berner Street and Smith had been nearer the Fairclough Street junction of Backchurch Lane which is further away from Berner Street at that point, Eagle would have been shouting away from the direction of Smith and Smith may have only heard some indistinct shouts that were getting fainter and he may not have thought them important. Other sounds in Backchurch Lane could also have blocked out the sound of the shouts. To not hear Lamb’s whistle, Smith would have had to have been nearer Commercial Road if not actually on it walking between Backchurch Lane and Gower’s Walk. Not only that, he would have had to have reached the top of Berner Street after PC 426H passed that point on his way to fetch the doctor, but before PC 426H returned with Johnston.

PC 426H left the yard to fetch the doctor 5 to 8½ minutes after the body was discovered. It would have taken him about 55 to 80 seconds to get to 100 Commercial Road. Johnston said that the PC arrived at just before 1:10. By the time he reached the end of Berner Street and was heading towards no. 100 Commercial Road, it would be 5¾ to 9½ minutes after the discovery of the body.

Assuming he was walking with a clear view ahead of him and he was not distracted, how far away would PC Smith have been not to have seen the PC running from Berner Street? The lighting in Berner Street was as good as in other side streets it was stated by a juryman (there were four streetlights down Berner Street between Commercial Road and Fairclough Street) and PC Lamb thought that when he was at the top of Berner Street he would have seen someone if they had run from Dutfield’s Yard, which is 113m away from the Commercial Road end of Berner Street, though he said they would have appeared indistinct and he would not have seen any details. The main thoroughfare of Commercial Road would have been better lit and so had PC Smith been nearing Berner Street along Commercial Road he would have been in a position to see PC 426H running from Berner Street. He would therefore have realised something was wrong and so would presumably have gone to see what it was and would have mentioned this at the inquest. If Lamb felt he could have seen someone running from Dutfield’s Yard 113m away, then a figure of at least 120m would not be unreasonable to see someone running on a better lit thoroughfare, especially if they wore the distinctive headgear of a policeman. So how long would it have taken Smith to walk about 120m?

Route Distance and Timings

The ‘measured heavy tramp’ of the policeman (quoting Mrs. Mortimer, a resident living in Berner Street two doors away from no. 40) would describe a slow but steady and deliberate walk. Measuring the route using the 1894 Ordnance Survey map displayed and Google Earth, the whole basic route is about 1370 metres long. This is the route shown in Map 5 excluding Sander Street. This is about 0.85 miles. If this was the extent of his route, Smith would be walking at a pace of about 0.76m/s (1.7mph) to 0.91m/s (2.04mph), the range derived from completing the route in 25 minutes and in 30 minutes. This would mean Smith was walking at a very slow pace, especially when compared to the generally accepted speed for a policeman on the beat of about 1.12m/s (2.5 mph). However, as noted earlier, Watkins progressed at a slower rate on his beat covering Mitre Square, while the figure of 1.12m/s has been used as a guide to test that the average speeds calculated for Smith for the various alternative routes of his beat are not too extreme of too far removed from this figure, I have not used it as the approximate speed Smith at which Smith would necessarily have been walking.

Including all the side streets and courts off Backchurch Lane and between Berner and Backchurch and allowing for the fact that he may not have walked all the way along them, or not walked along some of them at all would give a distance of about 1730 metres. Taking 25–30 minutes would give a speed of between about 0.96m/s (2.15mph) and 1.15m/s (2.58mph). Including the courts between Berner Street and Batty Street and between Batty and Christian streets and again allowing for the fact that he may not have walked all the way along them, or not walked along some of them at all, would give a distance of about 1800 metres. This would give a speed of between about 1m/s (2.24mph) and 1.2m/s (2.68mph). Assuming that he walked up all the courts that I could recognise as such from the map and the full distance in each, would give a distance of about 2090m and mean he walked at a speed of between about 1.16m/s (2.6mph) and 1.39m/s (3.12mph).

The tables below demonstrate how the various distances which can be attributed to Smith’s beat are derived.

The first table shows the list of side streets and courts, which are lettered A–G on Map 7 below. These side streets and courts are unnamed on the map I have seen (1894 Ordnance Survey), but some are named on the 1862 Stanford Map. I have listed these names in the table.

Map 7

The second table looks at how the overall distance of Smith’s beat is then derived.

The point of these measurements is to look at the relative distance of various parts of the route compared with the whole route, so that the time it would take to walk these sections can be deduced given that Smith said it took 25 – 30 minutes to walk the whole route. These will not be exact as it cannot be known precisely what route Smith did take, or whether he had to make certain stops. I am assuming that he maintained the same rate of progress round his beat, but this may not have been and probably was not the case if he had to make unscheduled stops or investigate suspicious sights. However, by working with these figures it does give a broad range within which to work.

To outline the different combinations to give us a range of times, I have used four routes:

ROUTE ‘A’

This is the basic route with Sander Street included. For this route, it is assumed that he did not walk up any of the courts on the route or side streets off Backchurch Lane. I am not inclined to believe that this was all he walked on his route, because the route was said to cover “all interior roads including Berner Street and Batty Street” which implies there was more than one other road and because of the reference to the court between Berner Street and Backchurch Lane by PC Smith at the inquest.

ROUTE ‘B’

This is the basic route with Sander Street and the Berner Street / Backchurch Lane courts and side streets included. This excludes the courts between Berner and Batty Street and between Batty Street and Christian Street. These are not wide thoroughfares (unlike the court between Berner and Backchurch) and so may not have been walked by Smith. Also as with Dutfield’s Yard some of these may have been on private property and so would not have been patrolled (as was the case with Dutfield’s Yard as stated earlier). This also assumes that Smith may not have walked the full length of the side streets and courts, only walking part of the way and relying on just looking along the rest of the street or court.

ROUTE ‘C’

This route also takes into account the Batty Street courts but again assumes that Smith may not have walked the full length of some or all of them.

ROUTE ‘D’

In this route I assume that he walked the full length of all the courts and side streets I have identified. Of course, there may be others I have missed or wrongly excluded – the large areas off the streets are sometimes stables, though Smith could have patrolled or stopped to check some of these.

The table below gives the range of times to cover 100m and the average speed for each of these four routes using Smith’s own range of 25–30 minutes to cover his beat.

Overall, I think I have looked at a reasonable range of distances for his beat and established a reasonable walking speed for Smith of between just below two and just over three mph.

I realise that we cannot hope to get such accuracy suggested by exact timings (such as one minute and 23 seconds) but the figures give us a rough idea of the time it would take for Smith to walk certain distances. For all the time or distance ranges given, Route A is not taken into account. However, timings/distances are given as a side note (in parentheses) in each case just to cover the longest time possible assuming he only walked Route A. Walking 100m would take him somewhere between one minute and 12 seconds and one minute and 44 seconds (two minutes if taking the basic route with Sander Street). For the 120m I estimate as the minimum that Smith must have been from the end of Berner Street not to see the constable running for the doctor, it would take between one minute 26 seconds and two minutes and five seconds (two minutes 25). This is roughly 1½ to two minutes (2½ minutes). Given PC 426H would have been just running into Commercial Road from Berner Street 5¾ to 9½ minutes after the discovery of the body, then PC Smith would have arrived at the top of Berner Street 7 to 11½ minutes (11¾ minutes) after the discovery. PC Smith had to arrive at the top of Berner Street after PC 426H had left for the doctor but before he returned with Johnston. If Stride was found at 1am, then PC Smith would have returned to Berner Street between 1:07 and 1:11.

However, given the proximity of Blackwell’s residence to the end of Berner Street (about 50m), Johnston and PC 426H would not have been long in returning to the end of Berner Street on their way to Dutfield’s Yard. Estimating the time to answer the door, then more time for the officer to tell of the discovery and then time for Johnston and Blackwell perhaps to decide that Johnston should go ahead (while Blackwell would follow in a few minutes) and for Johnston to get his bag, it could have been at least a minute, and maybe as much as two, before Johnston left with the constable. With the extra time for the constable to run some of the distance along Commercial Road possibly out of clear vision of PC Smith, then this could amount to the time I suggest for Smith to get to the end of Berner Street from a position where he would perhaps not see PC 426H as he ran to Dr. Blackwell’s. Of course Smith’s vision could have been blocked as he walked along Commercial Road towards Berner Street, so he could have been nearer. There is a small window for Smith to get to the top of Berner Street between PC 426H getting there from Dutfield’s Yard and then returning with Johnston.

Assuming PC 426H’s progress would be slower with Johnston, it would take perhaps 70 to 100 seconds to return to Dutfield’s Yard walking quickly. Using Johnston’s time of getting to Dutfield’s Yard at between 1:12 and 1:13am, they would have left 100 Commercial Road just after 1:10am. Smith would have got to the top of Berner Street no more than two minutes before this (else he would surely have seen or even met PC 426H), so from this timing he got there between 1:09 and 1:10am. Also, Smith did not suggest that he was at Dutfield’s Yard for very long before leaving to get an ambulance and as he left Johnston arrived. So taking timings from the two extremes we end up with Smith being at the top of Berner Street sometime between 1:07 and 1:11am. The earliest time does not fit with Johnston’s timings, so to allow a bit of leeway with Johnston’s estimate of how long he was at Dutfield’s Yard before Blackwell arrived, it is likely that Smith returned to Berner Street between 1:08 and 1:09am.

Rather than just using the times given by Johnston, the point of working out how long Smith would take to walk certain distances is useful when looking at the relative timing of events. This is because it could be the timings given by the witnesses are not consistent. For example, was the clock used by Louis Diemshutz to note the time at exactly 1am when he returned to Berner Street consistent with Dr. Blackwell’s watch? So when Dr. Blackwell noted his arrival at Dutfield’s Yard at 1:16am was this actually 16 minutes after Diemshutz came down the street?

The following table summarises the timings of the various events following the discovery of Stride’s body. Noted by each event is the previous event number to which the time is added to keep a cumulative total of the time elapsed following the discovery of the body.

If Smith was eight minutes away from the top of Berner Street at the time Stride was found, he would therefore have been about 460–670m (400m) away. If he was seven minutes away, then he would have been about 400 – 585m away (350m). If he was as much as ten minutes away, then the distance would be about 575–835m (500m). This would place Smith somewhere on the lower part of the stretch of Backchurch Lane between Fairclough Street and Commercial Road, perhaps even just approaching Backchurch Lane from Fairclough Street, but having gone round the corner by the time Diemshutz and Kozebrodsky came running out of Dutfield’s Yard. He could have been patrolling the side streets on the western side of Backchurch Lane or maybe venturing halfway up the court between Backchurch Lane and Berner Street at the moment of discovery.

So what does all this tell us?

Smith said that his route took him from 25 to 30 minutes to walk around it. He said that he saw Stride with a man at sometime between 12:30 and 12:35 and that he returned to Berner Street at 1:00. The time range that he provided for this sighting corresponds with the range he gave for the time it took to complete the route. It appears, therefore, that he was using 1am as his reference point and so he deduced that his previous visit to Berner Street would have been 25 to 30 minutes earlier. But, Smith actually returned to Berner Street no earlier than 1:07 and probably nearer 1:10. So his estimate of returning to Berner Street at 1:00 is seven to ten minutes too early and probably nearer the latter end of the range. Therefore, if he was using that at his reference point for when he last passed down and back up Berner Street and saw Elizabeth Stride, his estimate of that time is as much as ten minutes too early. Therefore he did not see Stride at between 12:30 and 12:35, he saw her at some time between 12:35 and 12:45 and more likely between 12:40 and 12:45.

Also, as Berner Street is 126m long, Dutfield’s Yard 13m from the junction with Fairclough Street and Stride and the man were roughly a couple of doors further up from Dutfield’s Yard on the opposite side of the road (say another 10m), it would take Smith roughly two to 2½ minutes (three minutes) to reach that point from the top of Berner Street. If the top of Berner Street is our reference point for the time of both visits then the extra two to 2½ minutes (three minutes) needs to be taken into account. In other words, his sighting of Stride would be 23 to 27½ minutes prior to his return (and not 25 to 30 minutes). If he returned to the top of Berner Street at 1:08, then the time would have been about 12:41 – 12:45 when he passed Stride and the man.

This actually ties in with an account given to the press by Fanny Mortimer, as reported in the Daily News and the Evening News of 1 October, 1888. There are actually two accounts that both seem to come from the same woman. In one account, she is mentioned by name, but in the other she is not named. Where she is mentioned by name, the report said that she lived four doors away from the club. Fanny Mortimer lived at no. 36 (as acknowledged in the report) so someone may have mistakenly believed that was four doors away from the club at no. 40. However, since the street was numbered evenly on the western side, she actually lived two doors away from the club. The report said that she stood at her door for nearly the whole of the half hour between 12:30 and 1:00 and had just come inside when she heard the commotion from the club. The report said that the only person she saw pass in that time was a man with a black bag who had glanced up at the club as he passed before turning by the board school into Fairclough Street. Mrs. Mortimer also said that she had seen a young couple on the corner by the board school at the junction with Fairclough Street. She said that they must have been there before and after the murder occurred (she assumed the murder must have been committed just prior to Diemshutz going into the yard, as she had not seen anyone leave the yard while she had been on her doorstep). After the body had been discovered, Mrs. Mortimer said that the young woman had commented that she and the man she was with had heard nothing.

Berner Street

The other account, in the same report, did not name the woman, but said that she lived two doors from the club, which of course applied to no. 36. This account said that this woman had heard the ‘heavy measured tramp’ of a policeman passing her door at shortly before 12:45, whereupon she had gone to the door to put the bolts across, but had first stood on her doorstep for no more than ten minutes before coming inside to get ready for bed. Four minutes later, she had heard the pony and cart of Diemshutz pass by. The fact that this woman lived two doors away and gives a similar story to Fanny Mortimer suggests they were the same person. Mrs. Mortimer’s account is often overlooked because if she claimed to have been at her door from about 12:30 to 12:55 there were other witnesses who claimed to be in the street or returning to the club in that period that she should have seen, but she did not say she had seen anyone except the couple and the man with the black bag who did not go into the club. As the time of Smith passing has been accepted as being about 12:30 to 12:35 then this seemed to support the timing of her standing at her door from about 12:30 or possibly from a bit later than 12:35. However, if PC Smith did not pass until about 12:40 – 12:45 then this ties in with the part of the report where the unnamed woman (likely to be Mrs. Mortimer) said that she went to her door just after the policeman had passed at shortly before 12:45. So this supports the readjusted time of PC Smith’s previous visit to Berner Street, which in turn supports the statement by Mrs. Mortimer (or, at least, the unnamed woman). Also, her timings seems accurate in that she said she went to her door at about 12:45, stood there for no more than ten minutes, and then four minutes later heard Diemshutz go by. Diemshutz said he came down Berner Street at 1:00, and Mrs. Mortimer said she had gone in about four minutes before this, so that would be 12:55 to 12:56, which supports the assertion she had stood at her door for no more than ten minutes (give or take a minute). Also, the accuracy of her statement to the press is supported by the fact that the man with the black bag that she saw subsequently came forward to account for himself. He was Leon Goldstein, of 22 Christian Street, and he said that he had walked down Berner Street at about 1:00 on his way home. Mrs. Mortimer had gone back inside at between 12:55 and 12:56 so it was probably sometime between 12:50 and 12:55 that he went past.

Even though Mortimer mentions seeing the young couple at the corner with Fairclough Street, she does not mention seeing Stride, either alone or with anyone else. So, as soon as Smith had passed them, it is possible that Stride and the man went to Dutfield’s Yard, if they were not in the street by the time Mortimer went to her door. Smith said that he saw them on the opposite side of the road to Dutfield’s Yard and a few yards further up the road, so they could have been almost directly opposite Mrs. Mortimer’s house. They could have gone somewhere else, but, in this case, Stride could not have returned to Berner Street until after Mrs. Mortimer had gone back inside at 12:55. Mrs. Mortimer does not mention seeing Smith, so had he already reached Commercial Road by the time Mortimer got to her door? But it would be a minute or two before he reached Commercial Road (the latter if Smith walked along the court between Berner and Backchurch, and walked along Sander Street as part of his beat going up Berner Street back to Commercial Road), in which case she would not have gone ‘immediately’ to her door. It may be that Mortimer did see him when she went to her door, but just did not mention it as she’d already referred to hearing him pass her house. Either way, by the time she got to her door, Stride and the man were not in the street. So did they wait until Smith had passed, and, with his back to them, enter Dutfield’s Yard? Or maybe, if Smith did go into the court between 30 and 32 Berner Street, the couple then took advantage of Smith being out of sight to go into the yard.

Who else was around in the half hour prior to the discovery of the body?

At sometime between 12:30 and 12:40, Joseph Lave walked out of the side entrance to the club into Dutfield’s Yard and went as far as the street, where he stood for about five minutes and returned to the club through the yard. He did not see a body and did not see anyone in the street. Morris Eagle returned to the club through the yard at 12:35 – 12:40. There could have been people in the street, but he could not remember. However, he said that he did not see anyone in the yard. Mrs. Mortimer said she had not seen anyone go into the yard, so she did not see Lave or Eagle and thus could not have been on her doorstep at that time. Sometime between 12:39–12:43 Smith probably started down Berner Street and then turned to walk back up, passing Stride with a man at about 12:41–12:45.

At about 12:45, James Brown walked from his home at 35 Fairclough Street to get his supper from the chandler’s at the southwest corner of the junction of Fairclough and Berner streets. He was in there for about four minutes and then returned home. He saw a man and a woman standing by the board school in Fairclough Street near to Berner Street. He heard the woman say ‘not tonight, some other night’. He said he was fairly certain the woman was Elizabeth Stride, but he said she was not wearing a flower, which Stride had on when her body was discovered and that other witnesses had seen, including PC Smith. The woman’s phrase ‘not tonight, some other night’ has often been interpreted as suggesting she was a prostitute turning down a prospective client, but it was a snippet of conversation not heard in context. It could have been a young woman and her boyfriend and he made a suggestion for doing something that night that the woman obviously did not want to do. I can think of a number of things (!), but it may just simply have been a suggestion to go somewhere else that she didn’t want to do that night. Anyway, this couple sound like they could be the couple Mrs. Mortimer saw and spoke to after the discovery of Stride’s body. Brown was not sure of the time and only guessed it based on the fact that he had returned home (before going out to the chandler’s) at 12:10. After his return from the chandler’s, he said he had been home about 15 minutes and was finishing his supper when he heard Diemshutz and Kozebrodsky run past shouting.

Also at about 12:45, Israel Schwartz told the police he had come into Berner Street from Commercial Road and saw a man ahead of him who walked as far as the gates to Dutfield’s Yard. Then he saw a woman, whom he later identified as Stride, standing at the gates and the man threw her to the ground. Stride screamed three times, but not very loudly. Schwartz had walked to the other side of the road to keep out of the way but turned to look at what was going on. The man who attacked Stride called out ‘Lipski’, apparently at Schwartz, who then walked away. Just then, he said, he saw a second man standing outside the beershop (three doors down from the club on the corner with Fairclough Street). This second man appeared to follow him, so Schwartz ran away as far as the railway arch. The second man did not follow as far. This appears to describe the onset of the attack that resulted in Stride’s death, but some have commented that the indiscrete nature of the attack, without the attacker seeming to care whether there were any witnesses, does not appear to be typical behaviour of a serial killer. Schwartz did not see what happened afterwards, so could not confirm that the attacker was her killer. Also, he was not sure if the two men were known to each other, so he did not know if the second man was chasing him or if he too had fled from the attacker.

Coming back to PC Smith, it has also been shown that he would have also passed the junction of Berner Street and Fairclough Street (and so would have been about 15m from Dutfield’s Yard) between his walks down Berner Street. What time would this have been?

The distance from this point on his beat to the top of Berner Street would be about 500m if he did not walk up any courts or side streets off Backchurch Lane, or as much as 850m if he walked up the side streets on the western side of Backchurch Lane and walked halfway along the court between Berner Street and Backchurch Lane. I do not believe he could have walked along Sander Street from Backchurch Lane as it would have been difficult for Smith to miss the activity and shouts in Berner Street after the discovery of Stride’s body if he walked as far as the junction of Sander Street with Berner Street. To walk this section of his beat would, therefore, take anywhere from six minutes to 14 minutes and 45 seconds. The upper extreme assumes that he walked up all courts and side streets from Backchurch Lane (except Sander Street) and that his whole beat took 30 minutes to patrol. The lower extreme assumes he went up no side streets or courts along Backchurch Lane and that his whole beat took 25 minutes to patrol. (Assuming just the Sander Street basic route timings would mean only having to account for walking 500m anyway and this time would fall within the range already given.)

So, if he was at the top of Berner Street at 1:08, he would have last been at the junction of Berner Street and Fairclough Street at some time between 12:53 and 1:02. A time before the later extreme seems more likely because if he passed at 1:02 he would surely have heard Diemshutz and Kozebrodsky as they ran out of Dutfield’s Yard and even if he had passed the junction by the time they ran out of the yard they would not have been far behind him as he walked along Fairclough Street towards the junction with Backchurch Lane. Therefore the upper time in the range cannot be extended beyond 1:00, but the lower end of the range may not be early enough if Smith had arrived at the top of Berner Street earlier than 1:08. 1:08 was given as the more likely rough time for his arrival at that point taking everything into account. However, it was concluded that he would have got there no earlier than 1:07. So taking this earlier time, he would be at the junction of Berner Street and Fairclough Street no earlier than 12:52. Mrs. Mortimer did not report seeing him pass again so while I think it would be reasonable to say he passed this point sometime between just before 12:55 and just before 1:00, the time would more likely be after 12:55 and nearer that time than 1:00. Also James Brown did not mention seeing a policeman and he would have been walking along Fairclough Street back to his house from the chandler’s at around 12:50. Brown would perhaps have been returning home a minute or two earlier, but if Smith reached the junction at 12:52 he would have been visible further along Fairclough Street for a minute or so before hand, and so Brown would possibly have seen him further along Fairclough Street as he returned home. Of course if Smith took the route shown in Map 3b, Brown may have missed him if Smith had been walking along Batty Street.

The following table demonstrates how long it would have taken Smith to walk up and down Batty Street possibly including all the courts off Batty Street for each of the routes identified.

From this table it can be seen that to walk up and down Batty Street, possibly including all the courts identified would have taken between 3½ and six minutes. However, for it to take six minutes would mean Smith walked along the full length of court E from Batty Street as far as Berner Street (see Map 8). This would have brought Smith within possible view and, more probably, earshot of Mrs. Mortimer during her ten minute vigil (marked in blue), but Mrs. Mortimer did not mention this. While it is possible that he did walk as far as Berner Street along this court, it is more likely that the route he walked did not include going this far and so the maximum time it would have taken him to walk up and down Batty Street would have been 5½ minutes.

Map 8

Assuming he would have had a reasonable view of the Berner and Fairclough streets junction from 100m away, he would have had a reasonable view of the junction for about 50m before reaching Batty Street. To reach Batty Street from this point would take him from 30 seconds to a minute. If Smith did walk this route (as shown in Map 3b), then his view would have been interrupted while he walked up and down Batty Street, which would have taken 3½ to 5½ minutes. On returning to Fairclough Street, he would have been about 50m (and so 30 seconds to a minute) from the Berner Street and Fairclough Street junction.

PC Smith

Whether he took the route shown in Map 3a or in Map 3b, he would still have reached the junction of Berner Street and Fairclough Street at the same time. However, if he had already walked along Batty Street from Commercial Road he would have approached the Berner and Fairclough streets junction with an uninterrupted view of it for one to two minutes before reaching it, whereas if he walked along Batty Street from Fairclough Street this view would have been interrupted for 3½ to 5½ minutes.

PC Smith did not mention passing the junction between his visits to Berner Street in his inquest testimony, but from the account of his route he would have done so. Why was this not mentioned then? It was probably because there was nothing to relate about that part of his beat at that time. His visit to Berner Street at just before 12:45 was mentioned because he saw Stride with a man, and his subsequent visit was mentioned because that covered his role in events following the discovery of the body. However, no mention of him passing was made by the couple on the corner of the street, though we have very limited witness testimony from them. Following the discovery of the body, the couple made some passing comment to Mrs. Mortimer, which was reported by Mrs. Mortimer to the press, and the woman appears to have given a press interview herself saying she had been standing in Fairclough Street for about 20 minutes ‘talking with her sweetheart but neither had heard any unusual noises’. However, the fact that Smith passing by was not mentioned does not mean that he did not. Mrs. Mortimer, as already stated, may well have gone back inside her house to get ready for bed by the time Smith passed. Also, it should be borne in mind that as he passed the junction he would only have been in Mrs. Mortimer’s line of sight for a few seconds, and she may well have been looking away as he passed. Still, she would likely have noticed his ‘heavy measured tramp’.

A recap of who was in the street and the rough timings

12:30–12:40 Joseph Lave walks through the yard to the street and remains in the street for about five minutes before returning to the club through the yard.

12:35–12:40 Morris Eagle returns to the club through the yard.

12:39–12:45 PC Smith walks down and back up Berner Street passing Stride and a man.

12:45–12:50 James Brown walks along Fairclough Street to the chandler’s shop on Fairclough/Berner Street junction and stays for about four minutes before returning home.

12:45 Israel Schwartz sees an attack on Stride by a man at the gates to the yard and flees.

12:45–12:55 Mrs. Mortimer stands on her doorstep for ten minutes

12:54–12:58 Smith passes the junction of Fairclough Street and Berner Street with reasonable to good visibility of the junction for a minute or so before (with a possible interruption of 3½ – 5½ minutes if he walked up Batty Street). Nothing is reported regarding any observations from Smith at this point on his beat, so it seems likely that Smith saw nothing of note.

12:50–12:55 Leon Goldstein passes down Berner Street and does not report seeing anyone.

12:40–01:00+ Young couple at the corner of Berner and Fairclough streets stand there for some of the time visible to Mrs. Mortimer and just round the corner in Fairclough Street for the rest.

01:00 Diemshutz comes down Berner Street and into the yard and discovers the body.

There is one account there that does not sit well with the others at all, certainly for the timing given of the event. That is the statement of Israel Schwartz.

So when could Schwartz have seen the assault on Stride with the assailant calling out ‘Lipski’ leading to Schwartz and the Pipeman running from the scene? There are very few windows of opportunity for this to have occurred with no other witnesses of the event in the half-hour prior to the discovery of the body. None of the witnesses in the area in this half-hour period saw or heard any of the events that Schwartz described. If it happened between Smith passing Stride and Mortimer coming to her front door, the man Smith saw with Stride would have had to have left immediately and Smith would probably have still been in Berner Street albeit approaching Commercial Road (in fact he would have had to have passed Stride’s assailant and Schwartz as they were walking down Berner Street) and could possibly have heard the cry of ‘Lipski’. If he had turned around to at least check it out, he would have seen Stride on the floor. However, Smith may have walked along the court between Berner Street and Backchurch Lane and could have just missed the events that Schwartz related. But, for this to happen (as I have already said), Stride would have had to part from the man Smith saw with her almost as soon as Smith passed by and Mrs. Mortimer would not have got to her door yet, else the drama would have been played out in clear view of her. Even if Mrs. Mortimer was not yet stood on her doorstep, it is likely that her door was open or at least ajar if she had heard the policeman walk past. She said she went to her door to put the bolts across but instead stood on her doorstep a while. She does not mention having to open the door first. If the door was open she would likely have heard the call of ‘Lipski’ and also the three screams (albeit not very loud screams), though she may have put this down to ‘goings on’ at the club if she had heard something. But why would Stride and the man hang around if he was just about to go anyway? If they had concluded their ‘business’ surely he would just have left prior to Smith seeing them, rather than stand and talk. This seems an unlikely window in which Schwartz’s events could have unfolded.

Had Schwartz’s incident happened before Smith got into Berner Street, then again Mortimer may have heard something if her door was open at that point. If this were the case, though, the fact that Smith saw Stride afterwards with a different man would mean Schwartz’s testimony is less important even if he described events that did occur. Also consider that Eagle, on his return to the club, and Lave, out for a breath of fresh air, did not see anything in the period from 12:35 to 12:40.

There was a brief time gap after Mortimer went back in at about 12:55, but Stride was not in the street when Mortimer was looking, so she would have had to have come out of Dutfield’s Yard or from further down Berner Street or from round the corner in Fairclough Street. And Smith would not have been that far along Fairclough Street and could possibly have seen Schwartz and ‘Pipeman’ if they were running across Fairclough Street. He may not have noticed anything suspicious if they did not break into a run straight away as Schwartz says he walked away from the assailant, but on finding that the Pipeman was following he broke into a run, which may therefore have happened only when he was in the southern part of Berner Street, which would not be visible from further along Fairclough Street. Alternatively, PC Smith may simply have had his attention drawn elsewhere at the crucial time as he walked along Fairclough Street and finally, there is the possibility that he walked up Batty Street from Fairclough Street and his view of the junction of Berner Street with Fairclough Street would have been interrupted for a few minutes. However, consider that the couple Mrs. Mortimer spoke to did not hear anything suspicious and they were on the corner of Berner Street visible to Mrs. Mortimer for at least part of that ten minute period. This was a short window and also ten minutes after Schwartz said the events happened. This is not an issue in itself, as witnesses do sometimes get the time wrong. If it did happen at that time, then it is certain that he witnessed the beginning of the attack that led to her death as she was found dead within four to five minutes.

Killer leaving Dutfield’s Yard

If the events that Schwartz described have a narrow time frame in which they could have occurred, then these small windows of opportunity also give the killer, if he was not Schwartz’s man, little time to leave Dutfield’s Yard without being observed. This is especially so if he was running away, which would have attracted attention.

However, the events Schwartz described in terms of the assault and him then fleeing would take more time to unfold than someone just running from Dutfield’s Yard and therefore someone simply fleeing the scene would more likely be missed by potential witnesses than the events that Schwartz described. Also, if the killer had left Dutfield’s Yard quickly but without running to avoid attention, then he may have escaped more easily without being noticed more easily.

Did the killer leave when Diemshutz went inside the club? Or, if he had been there, would he have tried to immediately run away or just get past Diemshutz and his pony quickly before Diemshutz knew there was a body there? All the time he waited it increased the chances of his being trapped. On seeing that the ‘uneven ground’ was a woman, Diemshutz could have called for help from where he was without going inside, for all the killer knew. But, maybe the killer waited to determine a course of action. If Diemshutz had shouted for help, maybe the killer only then would have run out the yard, possibly attacking or stabbing Diemshutz as he ran past. But, on seeing Diemshutz go into the club house, he took his chance and fled from the yard. In this case, he was acting a bit coolly when events could have conspired against him and left him trapped in the yard. He would have been better advised to exit the dark yard as soon as Diemshutz entered. Diemshutz would not have known about the body then and would not realise the significance of the man passing him. Also the darkness of the yard would mean that Diemshutz would not have got a good look at him.

So maybe the killer was interrupted before Diemshutz arrived, perhaps by someone who did not realise that they had interrupted the killer. Someone may have approached the side door from the kitchen of the club so they could be heard by the killer, but who did not actually go outside. And maybe this was ten minutes or more before Diemshutz arrived. Mortimer saw no one enter or leave the yard while she was on her doorstep between 12:45 and 12:55. Could the death have occurred in the narrow time frame between Smith passing Stride and a man, and Mrs. Mortimer going to her front door, with the killer having been interrupted and fleeing from the yard in this short period? As I said, this would take less time to elapse and so be more easily missed than the events that Schwartz described.

Reassessment of the importance of Smith’s sighting

Given the difficulties with Schwartz’s statement and the reassessment of the time that Smith passed Stride, the sighting of the man Smith saw with Stride becomes more important, being just 15 minutes or so prior to the discovery of the body, rather than at least 25 minutes. Smith’s sighting becomes more interesting as the reassessment of the timing brings it almost in line with the time given for Schwartz’s sighting. Were Stride and the man waiting for Smith to pass so they could then go into Dutfield’s Yard? Remember, Smith would have had them in sight for up to two minutes prior to passing them and he would have passed them twice, once going south down Berner Street and then a few seconds later as he returned towards Commercial Road. Similarly, they would have seen him, possibly hearing his ‘measured heavy tramp’ first, a sound that Stride was probably accustomed to listening for. Once he was safely past, they might have gone into Dutfield’s Yard. Possibly Stride was using the stable or one of the empty buildings at the back of the yard to conduct her ‘business’. As they walked up the passage did this man take out a knife and attack her?

Accuracy of Clocks and Watches

To return to a question raised earlier, can the timings of the witnesses be trusted? Was it really 1am exactly when Diemshutz came down Berner Street? Was it really 1:16 when Dr. Blackwell arrived at Dutfield’s Yard?

Clocks may not have been accurate and some people’s idea of time was obviously way off (for example, Spooner believed it was 12:35 when he got to the yard with Diemshutz), but nonetheless there are some consistencies between various witnesses. Eagle said he returned to the club at 12:35–12:40 and about 20 minutes later Gilleman told them of the murder. This may have been a minute or so after 1:00, as Diemshutz came down Berner Street at 1am, so it would have taken up to a minute or so to examine what had made the pony shy and then go inside and find his wife and return outside. Witnesses said the doctor arrived ten minutes after they returned with the police. Blackwell looked at his watch and saw it was 1:16 and the police first arrived at the scene at about 1:04 to 1:07. Mortimer heard the policeman’s steps outside her house at just before 12:45, stood on her doorstep for ten minutes, and then heard Diemshutz go by four minutes later. This ties in with Diemshutz’s account of the time, and even ties in with Smith’s movements (even though he said he went past at 12:35 by his latest estimation, but as we have seen, he seems to have been up to ten minutes off in his calculation). The witnesses may have been a minute or so off in their estimation of the time, but there is a general consistency.

The police and the coroner were prepared to accept the timings as accurate. However even if we assume Diemshutz was wrong in saying he came back at 1:00 (or the clock on the corner of Berner Street was wrong), then the relative timing of events still holds. Smith must have seen Stride no earlier than 20 to 25 minutes before her body was found and more likely 20 to 15 minutes before hand.

(Time:) X Diemshutz finds body
X+7 Minimum time for Smith to be back at top of Berner Street
X-23 Earliest time Smith was previously at top of Berner Street assuming 30 minute beat
X-18 Earliest time Smith was previously at top of Berner Street assuming 25 minute beat
X-21 Earliest time Smith passed Stride assuming 30 minute beat
X-16 Earliest time Smith passed Stride assuming 25 minute beat

Remember, this is assuming Smith was back at Berner Street only seven minutes after Stride’s body was discovered. It was possibly at least a couple of minutes after that (even excluding comparisons with the time Johnston and Blackwell said they arrived at the yard).

From this I believe Smith saw Stride 15 to 20 minutes before her body was discovered, whatever time that actually was. This is in comparison to the opinion held at the time that it was 25 to 30 minutes before the body was discovered, and indeed an official noted against Swanson’s report of 19 October that Smith’s sighting was obviously less relevant than Schwartz’s because of the time he gave for his sighting. As a result of this, I believe Smith’s sighting is of greater importance and the man he saw with Stride is more likely to have been her killer than previously considered.

Smith’s description of the man

Combining the two accounts we looked at earlier, the man was described by Smith as being about 28 years old, 5 ft. 7 in. in height with a dark complexion, and perhaps with a small moustache but possibly clean shaven. He wore a dark, hard felt deerstalker hat, a black diagonal or cutaway coat, dark trousers and a white collar and tie. He carried a newspaper parcel in his hand about 18 inches in length and six to eight inches wide.

Given the revised timings of Smith’s sighting of this man with Elizabeth Stride, far more importance should have been given by the police to this description.

Smith's beat shown on a Google Earth shot of Whitechapel, 2006

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Adam Wood and Don Souden for their assistance, and thanks to Adam for the maps, etc. Thanks also to Chris Scott, Robert Linford and Colin Roberts.

Sources

Inquest testimony of PC Smith, Morris Eagle, Louis Diemshutz, PC Lamb, Edward Johnston, Dr. Blackwell, Edward Spooner and James Brown from The Times (as reproduced in The Ultimate Jack The Ripper Sourcebook by Stewart P. Evans and Keith Skinner) and the Daily Telegraph (as reproduced on Casebook: Jack The Ripper) of 2 Oct – 6 Oct, 1888. Extra details from Diemshutz and statements from Isaac Kozebrodsky, Joseph Lave and Mrs. Mortimer from the Daily News and the Evening News (1 Oct 1888), and the Irish Times (1 Oct 1888).

The location of 100 Commercial Road was worked out by Robert Linford and Colin Roberts by looking at the 1881 and 1891 censuses and seeing that the even numbers of Commercial Road went as far as 114 before being interrupted by Christian Street. They both came to the conclusion that if this represented the enumerator’s round, no. 100 was seven houses from the corner with Christian Street, which put its location on the eastern corner of the junction of Batty Street and Commercial Road.


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