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Elizabeth Stride: Her Killer and Time of Death
Dave Yost

First published in Ripperologist, issue number 21, February 1999, pages 9-10. Reprinted with permission.

During the evening of 30 September, Israel Schwartz voluntarily made his statement at the Leman Street Police Station and viewed the body, identifying it as the woman he saw being accosted at 12:45 that morning. On 5 October at the inquest, Philip Kranz, opined that the killer could have escaped the yard after Diemschutz went into the club, suggesting that the killer was interrupted. On 19 October, Chief Inspector Swanson presented his summary of the Berner Street Case, pointing out that fifteen minutes separated the Schwartz incident from when Diemschutz discovered the body at approximately one o'clock. If we follow this lead, then it seems that Elizabeth died fairly close to one A.M., leaving JTR unable to complete what he intended to do. Yet, I wonder if this view is too simplified, questioning if something might be missing. So, I offer some thoughts on what might have happened that night.

In reviewing information on any aspect related to JTR, there are generally two categories of sources: Official and Unofficial. The official sources include post-mortem reports, actual inquest papers, police reports, etc. The unofficial sources are essentially the numerous press releases related to the crimes. Unfortunately, there are times when official sources are not available (eg, Stride inquest papers), and when police reports, while providing valuable information, as well as useful insight into the official view, fail to provide a lot of detail, (eg, Ch Insp Swanson commenting on only a few witeness statements). Therefore, in deciding what to accept or not accept, it is inevitable that eyewitness accounts and statements, as gleaned from newspapers, will be utilized. Hence, unofficial sources can not be summarily dismissed out of hand, because of their usefulness in helping to fill in the missing pieces to the puzzle. Mrs Fanny Mortimer is one such piece to this puzzle.

There are typically two news articles used to present Mortimer's statement, each published on 1 October: the Evening News and the Daily News. The Evening News reported Mortimer's actions as being 'shortly before a quarter to one o'clock she heard the measured heavy stamp of a policeman [ostensibly PC Smith] passing the house on his beat. Immediately afterwards she went to the street door'. After seeing Leon Goldstien pass by, Mortimer returned inside. Shortly afterwards, she heard Diemschutz drive by, then heard the commotion at the club. All of this can be easily interpreted as, Mortimer was outside for nearly thirty minutes between c.12:30 and c.1:00. This interpretation is essentially what the Daily News had printed. Yet, I must question this interpretation, because Mortimer herself stated she was outside for no more than ten minutes and because she gives us two different times for when she went outside: a) After a constable passed the house (c.12:30-12:35), and b) At approximately 12:45.

Had Mortimer factually been outside from c.12:30 to c.1:00, then she would not have missed Charles Letchford (walked through Berner Street at 12:30), Joseph Lave (exited the club via Dutfield's Yard at c.12:30, was outside for about 5 minutes, and went as far as the street), possibly James Brown (supposedly left the chandler shop at the corner of Fairclough and Berner Streets at around 12:45), Morris Eagle (returned to the club at c.12:40, tried the front door before going through Dutfield's Yard), and of course the entire Schwartz incident. It would seem that Mortimer had missed a great deal, if the person she thought she heard was PC Smith. Albeit, Mortimer never claimed to have seen the person, only to have heard an individual pass by with a 'measured heavy tread', so the idea that she heard a constable is not necessarily correct.

We know that PC Smith passed by about ten minutes before Mortimer's estimated time for going outside, but it should be asked, Would a constable patrol his beat with a 'heavy stamp'? Possibly not, given the length of duty for such patrols, and PC Smith had already been on patrol since 10:00 P.M.. A constable would be more inclined to 'plod along'. Still, a policeman did not have the soft or rubber sole boots at the time. Yet, Mortimer never claimed to have heard two such sets of footfalls pass by within about ten minutes of each other. We also know that at 12:45 A.M., Schwartz saw Elizabeth be accosted by a man. During this, Schwartz noticed a second man lighting his pipe. The first man yelled, 'Lipski', and Schwartz left the scene, as did this second man, both heading South, away from Mortimer's house. (This entire incident could have occurred in about two minutes.) And, there seems to be no information which suggests that this second man returned to the area after he left. At this point, the only known people in the area are Schwartz's first man and Elizabeth, (just a few doors down from Mortimer). Yet, Mortimer heard a heavy enough step at around this time to know that someone passed by her house. So who did pass by her house?

The footfalls Mortimer heard might have been Elizabeth escaping her assailant. But I would think that, even if her attacker had indeed merely let her go, then she might have fled more than walked quickly, which seems to be what Mortimer described. And, there would also seem to be no reason why her assailant would simply let her go, especially when the possibility existed that she might have described him to the police as the murderer they sought. This leaves Schwartz's first man. He was witnessed accosting Elizabeth; once finished, he would have no reason to stay where he was; and, that could very well be around the time when Mortimer's couple moved into the area, forcing him to travel North, away from Dutfield's and from them to avoid suspicion. I would also think that he would not want to attract attention to himself by running, so he moved briskly with a measured heavy tread. Therefore, he would have passed Mortimer's house at c.12:47.

Since Mortimer came out immediately after hearing the footfalls, then she came outside by 12:48. This time is corroborated by Mortimer's own statement that she was outside for about ten minutes, returning indoors before Diemschutz drove by. Letchford also backs up this view with his statement that his "sister" was outside for about ten minutes. To me, this would still be within the general time frame given by Mortimer (12:45) and by Letchford (12:50). But in all fairness, I am not familiar with any information that indicates that Letchford actually saw Mortimer standing outside. Hence, he would have obtained his information from either the published press interviews with Mortimer and/or from Mortimer herself. In either case, it would seem that Mortimer stuck with her ten minute time frame for being outside; she was just outside after 12:45, not before. But what became of Elizabeth?

After Mortimer came outside, she saw no one leave or enter Dutfield's Yard. Shortly after she went back inside, Diemschutz drove by. At the inquest on 1 October, he also stated that he noticed no one leave the area, as he approached, then he came upon Elizabeth's body. The couple to whom Mortimer referred (and with whom she seems to have spoken) noticed nothing out of the ordinary. So, there would seem to be little opportunity for Elizabeth to leave without being noticed by Mortimer, Mortimer's couple, and/or Deimschutz, let alone go and come back again, as Ch Insp Swanson indicated, had she still been alive after Schwartz's first man left the area.

On 2 October, Dr Blackwell testified at the inquest that Elizabeth would have been dead between twenty to thirty minutes before he arrived at 1:16. This would place Elizabeth's time of death between 12:46 and 12:56. Plus, on 3 October, Dr Phillips testified that Elizabeth died within an hour of his arrival. But when did he arrive at the scene? Dr Blackwell arrived at 1:16am and believed that Dr Phillips arrived at the scene twenty to thirty minutes after he did. This would place Dr Phillips' arrival between 1:36 and 1:46. At 1:45, however, Inspector Reid arrived at Dutfield's Yard, and Dr Phillips was already with the body. Giving Dr Phillips some time to get into the yard, greet Dr Blackwell, and begin looking at the body prior Insp Reid's arrival, we should be able to safely estimate that Dr Phillips arrived between 1:36 and 1:44. This would mean that Dr Phillips estimated that Elizabeth died no earlier than between 12:36 and 12:44. All of this corresponds to around the time when Mortimer heard the footfalls passing her house. And, on 5 October, when Dr Phillips was recalled to the inquest, he stated that the injury to Elizabeth's throat could have been accomplished in about two seconds.

From 12:45, there would be enough time for Schwartz and the second man to leave, for the first man to "take" Elizabeth further into the yard, for him to cut her throat, and then leave himself in time for Mortimer to hear his footfalls and come out into the street by c.12:48. And, it corresponds with the medicos estimated time of death. This readily suggests that Elizabeth died by c.12:47 with Schwartz's first man as her killer.

Editor's Note:

No record of Schwartz's original statement, given at Leman Street Police Station on Sunday evening, 30th September 1888, has survived, but we print here the gist of it as noted in Chief Inspector Swanson's report to the Home Office on the 19th October 1888:-

12.45 a.m. 30th Israel Schwartz of 22 Helen Street [Ellen St], Backchurch Lane, stated that at this hour turning into Berner Street from Commercial Road & having gotten as far as the gateway where the murder was committed, he saw a man stop and speak to a woman, who was standing in the gateway. He tried to pull the woman into the street, but he turned her round and threw her down on the footway and the woman screamed three times, but not very loudly. On crossing to the opposite side of the street, he saw a second man lighting his pipe. The man who threw the woman down called out, apparently to the man on the opposite side of the road, 'Lipski' & then Schwartz walked away, but finding that he was followed by the second man, he ran as far as the railway arch, but the man did not follow so far.

Schwartz cannot say whether the two men were together or known to each other. Upon being taken to the mortuary Schwartz identified the body as that of the woman he had seen. He thus describes the first man who threw the woman down:- age, about 30; ht, 5ft 5in[s]; comp., fair; hair, dark; small brown moustache, full face, broad shouldered; dress, dark jacket & trousers, black cap with peak, and nothing in his hands.

Second man: age, 35; ht., 5ft 11 in[s]; comp., fresh; hair, light brown; dress, dark overcoat, old black hard felt hat, wide brim; had a clay pipe in his hand.

Schwartz's description of the first man was published on the front page of The Police gazette on 19th October 1888. By the 1st October The Star had managed to embroider the Schwartz story considerably, adding in much detail and certain timings. The second man becomes the one who shouts a warning and the second man's pipe has also become a knife, so, as fact, the Star report must be considered with reservation.

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