24 September 1888
On Saturday night, as we relate in detail elsewhere, a young woman was found brutally murdered and mutilated in the neighbourhood of Gateshead. She had been mutilated in the same way as the unhappy creatures at the East end of London, and, apparently, with the same ease, celerity, and certitude. There were no marks of a struggle. The other particulars only deepen the horror of the crime. The victim was a respectable woman, and she met her fate in a lonely place near a railway cutting, which she must have passed on her way home. For the moment we must leave this additional mystery where we find it, and pass on to the cases of which a little more is known. The coroner's inquest on the death of Mary Ann Nicholls terminated on Saturday in a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown. One Whitechapel murder tends to efface the recollection of another, and it already requires some effort of memory to recall the circumstances of the crime of which Nicholls was the victim. Yet, at the beginning of this month, while Annie Chapman was yet alive, everyone seemed familiar with the dreadful story of the discovery in Buck's row. The murder of Nicholls first drew attention to the probability that the crimes formed a series. The first murder, in which the woman was killed by a single thrust of a knife, passed almost unnoticed. So did the second, though in this instance as many as thirty nine stab were counted on the body. The butchery of Nicholls alarmed all London. It was then found that this crime bore a certain family likeness to the others, and, in a few days, this discovery was extended to a fourth of the series. All four deaths have occurred during the past five months within two hundred yards of each other. The victims were women of middle age, and they had been separated from their husbands in the sequence of intemperate or more decidedly immoral habits. They lived in common lodging houses, or, at any rate, they sometimes slept in them, for it would be more accurate to say that their home was the street. In each case they were murdered in the small hours of the morning, and in a densely populated quarter alive day and night with the movement of a working population. In two instances, those of Smith, the first victim, and of Chapman, the last, robbery was, if not one motive of the crime, at least an attendant circumstance of it. Nicholls was murdered in the early hours of Friday, the 31st August - in all probability between a quarter past three and a quarter to four. Late on Thursday night she was seen staggering along in drink, and she told an acquaintance that she had had her lodging money three times, and had spent it, and that she was now going out to look for some more. A little while after, she was found with her throat cut, and with other horrible mutilations, still warm, and, as one witness believed, still breathing, but, of course, as good as dead.
Not a cry nor a sound of any sort likely to excite alarm had reached any one in the street. She was lying on the footpath in Buck's row, and quite near the locked gateway of a stable. A family living next door to the stable heard nothing unusual during the night. This, however, must be taken for no more than it is worth. It was admitted that the sound of night brawling in the street was no uncommon thing. Buck's row was not disturbed; but then confessedly ot takes a good deal to disturb Buck's row. Neither was Hanbury street disturbed when, a few days later, Annie Chapman was undergoing the fate of Mary Anne Nicholls, in a back yard. Sounds as of two persons in altercation were heard in the back yard; yet no one took notice of them. This was nothing extraordinary, but it warrants many unpleasant inferences as to the nature of the ordinary sounds. Hence the great variety of conjecture as to the manner of the crimes. There have been successively a "gang" theory; a one man theory; even a one woman theory based on the suggestion of jealousy; and a slaughterman theory, which unquestionably derives some countenance from the nature of the wounds. A surgeon has declared that the mutilation of Annie Chapman, in particular, indicates a hand practised in the use of the knife. It has been argued that a slaughterman would have had the best chance of perpetrating these crimes with impunity. The murderer of these women must have been, not spotted with blood but covered with it, and only a butcher could walk through the streets in that condition without instantly exciting remark. Though the murder of Nicholls was committed while it was yet dark, that of Chapman took place at a much later hour in the morning. The worst objection to this theory lies in its attendant dangers. If there are many slaughter houses in Whitechapel, there is unfortunately but one in Buck's row; and in the excited state in which the neighbourhood and has lately been, it would be in the highest degree cruel to encourage suspicions that might be considered to have a special application. The only thing that supports the theory of a gang and it is significant enough as far as it goes, is that Emma Smith, the first victim, who survived for twenty four hours, distinctly stated that she had been attacked by a number of men. The motive is even more of mystery than the manner of the crime. The coroner rejects the theory of either robbery or jealousy. The theory to which he inclines is not quite clear. So far as can be gathered from him summing up he is disposed to attribute these outrages to a kind of anatomical body snatcher, who wished to carry away some part of the remains, and who, in Chapman's case, apparently succeeded in his object.
These are hardly to be dignified with the name of speculations. They are the merest guesses. We are all at fault, the police, of course, more conspicuously than the rest of us. They have nothing to suggest, and in the case of Nicholls, to judge by an observation of Inspector Helston on Saturday, they have no hope of further evidence. The evidence they have offered is of the most elementary description. It hardly extends beyond the finding of the body. It exemplifies their worst fault in its want of constructive ingenuity. They cannot put two and two together, and proceed from one ascertained fact to a number of hypotheses that might lead them to the next stage of a demonstration. The French police, according to what is related of them, at any rate according to what is fabled by M. Gaboriau, have this power in an eminent degree. We know what M. Lecoq made of a few footprints. With such reasoners, the chain grows in a most wonderful way, and as all facts whatsoever are nearly or remotely allied in cause and effect, there need be no limit to its extension when a keen intelligence is at one end. The police have some data to start with - the time and place of the crimes; the name, situation, habits, and, to some extent, the history of the victims. We have had no instance, of late years, of their having wormed out the secret of a crime from faint indications of this nature. The Australian savage, it has been said, can follow a trail, if only it has been brushed by a rabbit's foot. The London police are not like the Australian savage; and they may take it as a compliment if they can. They prefer the footprint of the elephant. It is quite conceivable that the private detective agencies would have thrown more light on these crimes. At Whitechapel the clue must start from a space not more than two hundred yards square! Can no one find it? The Committee of residents might do worse than invite a private agency to try.
A young woman of Birtley, near Gateshead, was found dead on Saturday night, having been stabbed in three places, and mutilated. She had left her home for a short time on an errand. The adjourned inquest respecting the Buck's row murder, the third of the four recent crimes if which unfortunate women have been the victims in Whitechapel, was resumed and concluded before Mr. Wynne Baxter on Saturday. The Coroner summoned (sic) up the evidence and indicated the points of resemblance in the four cases. The jury returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown."
MUTILATION OF A WOMAN
A young woman named June Beatmoor, 28 years of age, was the victim of a horrible murder at Birtley, near Gateshead, on Saturday night or Sunday morning. It appears that the deceased, who was in delicate health, had been at the Gateshead Dispensary on Saturday for medicine, and on returning home she went out to purchase some sweets with which to take her medicine. She called at several farms while she was out, and at half past seven at night left the house of an acquaintance named Mrs. Newall, evidently with the intention of returning home. She had not arrived at eleven o'clock, and her mother and stepfather went to look for her, without success, and concluded that she must have spent the night with some neighbour. Early in the morning a miner named John Fish, going to work, found the body of the deceased at the bottom of the railway embankment in a horribly mutilated condition. The county police were communicated with, and Superintendent Harrison and Sergeant Hutchinson, of Birtley, were soon on the spot. A closer inspection revealed the fact that the lower part of the deceased's body had been cut open and the entrails torn out. She was also cut about the face. the body was conveyed home, and a doctor sent for, who expressed the opinion that the cuts had been made with a knife. The affair has caused quite a panic in the district, the resemblance to the Whitechapel tragedies encouraging the idea that the maniac who had been at work in London has travelled down to the North of England to pursue his fiendish vocation. No arrests have been made.
Later particulars say:- Further inquiries made at the scene of the murder do not diminish the shocking brutality of the crime. The unfortunate woman is stabbed in three places, once in the bowels and twice in the face. The wound in the stomach is very deep, the knife having knocked a piece off the vertebral column. The body was found only a few hundred yards from the Girls' Home, by the side of the colliery railway. Beatmoor was last seen at 8 o'clock on Saturday night. She was then alone. The man Fish found her about half past seven yesterday morning. There were no marks of a struggle, and no trace of footsteps. The police are completely baffled, as the murderer has left not the slightest clue. During yesterday, thousands of persons visited the spot where the body was found.
SUMMING UP AND VERDICT
The adjourned inquest into the death of Mary Ann Nicholls, who was found murdered and shockingly mutilated in Buck's row, Whitechapel, early on the morning of the 31st ult., was concluded on Saturday at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel road.
Thomas Eade, who on a former occasion deposed that he had seen in Cambridge heath road on the 9th instant a suspicious looking man with a large knife partly concealed in his pocket, now said that the police had brought him face to face with the man in question.
The Coroner (Mr. Wynne E. Baxter) explained that the man whom the witness had considered suspicious in appearance was well known, and there was no doubt as to his innocence; so that the witness's evidence afforded no clue to the crime.
Dr. Llewellyn, who made the post mortem examination of the deceased, stated in reply to a juror that no part of the body was missing.
The Coroner then summed up the evidence. Having commented again on the necessity of a public mortuary in Whitechapel, he proceeded: There is nothing in the evidence as to the movements of the deceased on the day before her death, except a statement by herself that she was living in a common lodging house in Flower and Dean street, Spitalfields; but I believe her movements have been traced by the police, and are not considered to have any connection with her death. On Friday evening, August 31, she was seen by Mrs. Holland (who knew her well) at the corner of Osborn street and Whitechapel road, nearly opposite the parish church. It was then half past two. She was much the worse for drink and was staggering against the wall. She was last seen endeavouring to walk eastward down Whitechapel. What her exact movements were after this it is impossible to say. th4e condition of this main thoroughfare leaves little doubt that she must have met many persons afterwards; but no one has been found who saw her. In less than an hour and a quarter she was found dead at a spot rather under three quarters of a mile distant. She was first discovered by a carman named Cross on his way to his work. Paul, another carman, came up, and together they went to the woman. She was only just dead, if life was really extinct. Paul says he felt a slight movement of her breast, and thought she was breathing. Cross says her hand was cold, but her face was warm. Neither appears to have realised the real condition of the woman, and no injuries were noticed by them; but this, no doubt, is accounted for by the early hour of the morning and the darkness of the spot. Cross and Paul reported the circumstance to a constable at the corner of Hanbury street and Baker's row, about 300 yards distant, but in the meantime Police constable Neil discovered the body. The time at which the body was found cannot have been far from a quarter to four a.m., as it is fixed by so many independent data. The condition of the body appears to prove conclusively that deceased was killed on the spot where she was found. She met her death without a cry of any kind. Many people were within a short distance, but heard not a sound. Nor is there evidence of any struggle. On the contrary, there is everything suggesting that both the injuries to the throat and the abdomen were committed while the deceased was on her back in a passive attitude. This might have arisen from her intoxication, or from being stunned by a blow, or from being induced to place herself in that position. Again, the deceased could not have been killed long before she was found. Police constable Neil is positive that he was at the spot half an hour before, and neither the body was there nor was anyone about. It seems astonishing at first thought that the culprit should escape detection for there must surely have been marks of blood about his person. The blood, however, might be principally on his hands, and the presence of so many slaughter houses in the neighbourhood would make the frequenters of this spot familiar with bloodstained clothes and hands, and his appearance might in that way have failed to attract attention while he passed from Buck's row in the twilight into Whitechapel road, and was last sight of in the morning's market traffic. We cannot altogether leave unnoticed the fact that this death is one of four presenting many points of similarity, all of which have occurred within the space of about five months, and all within a very short distance. All four victims were women of middle age, all were married and had lived apart from their husbands in consequence of intemperate habits, and were at the time of their death leading an irregular life, and eking out a miserable and precarious existence in common lodging houses. In each case there were abdominal as well as other injuries. In each case the injuries were inflicted after midnight, and in places of public resort, where it would appear impossible but that almost immediate detection should follow the crime, and in each case the inhuman criminals are at large. Emma Elizabeth Smith, who received her injuries in Osborne street on the early morning of Easter Tuesday, April 3, survived in the London Hospital for upwards of 24 hours and was able to state that she has been followed by some men, robbed, and mutilated, and even to describe imperfectly one of them. Martha Tabram was found at 3 a.m. on Tuesday, August 7, on the first floor landing of George yard buildings, Wentworth street, with 39 punctured wounds on her body. In addition to these, and the case under your consideration, there is the case of Annie Chapman, still in the hands of another jury. The instruments used in the two earlier cases are dissimilar. In the first it was blunt instrument, such as a walking stick in the second, some of the wounds were thought to have been made by a dagger; but in the two recent cases the instruments suggested by the medical witnesses are not so different. Dr. Llewellyn says the injuries on Nichols could have been produced by a strong bladed instrument, moderately sharp. Dr. Phillips is of opinion that those on Chapman were by a very sharp knife, probably with a thin narrow blade, at least six to eight inches in length, probably longer. The similarity of the injuries in the two cases is considerable. There are bruises about the face in both cases; the head is nearly severed from the body in both cases; there are dreadful injuries to the abdomen in both cases, and those injuries again have in each case been performed with anatomical knowledge. When we come to consider what possible motive there can be for all this ferocity, we find that robbery is out of the question, and there is nothing to suggest jealousy. There could not have been any quarrel, or it would have been heard. The taking of some of the abdominal viscera from the body of Chapman suggests that that may have been the object of her death. Is it not possible that this may also have been the motive in case we have under consideration? I suggest to you as a possibility that these two women may have been murdered by the same man with the same object, and that in the case of Nichols the wretch was disturbed before he had accomplished his object, and having failed in the open street he tries again, within a week of his failure, in a more secluded place. If this should be correct, the audacity and daring is equal to its maniacal heathenism and abhorrent wickedness. It now only remains for you to say how the deceased came by her death.
The jury retired to consider their verdict, returning after an absence of twenty minutes.
The Coroner - Gentlemen, have you agreed upon your verdict?
The Foreman - Yes, sir. We are unanimously of opinion that we should give an open verdict of "Murder against some person ot persons unknown," and we wish to thank you for your remarks with reference to the necessity for a mortuary, and for the very able way in which you have conducted the inquiry.