East London Advertiser
Saturday, 11 August 1888.
DREADFUL MURDER IN WHITECHAPEL.
A WOMAN STABBED TO DEATH.
NO TRACE OF THE MURDERER.
In George-yard, Whitechapel, there was perpetrated on Tuesday morning last a mysterious murder, which has not been equalled in shameful brutality for many years past. George-yard is a narrow turning out of the High-street, and it leads into a number of courts and alleys in which some of the poorest of the poor, together with thieves and roughs and prostitutes, find protection and shelter in the miserable hovels bearing the name of houses. Amongst such ill-favoured conditions Mr. Holland has laboured for years, trying by means of his evangelistic mission to raise and elevate the moral and social life of the inhabitants of the district. The first intimation that there was something wrong reached Commercial-street Police station about 6 o'clock on Tuesday morning. It appears that a working man named John Saunders Reeves who lives at 37, George Yard-buildings - which are model dwelling houses - was coming downstairs about ten minutes to five to go to work when he discovered the body of a woman lying in a pool of blood on the first floor landing. He at once called police constable Barrett, 26 H, who was on his beat in the vicinity, and Dr. Keeling of Brick Lane was sent for, and promptly arrived. He made an examination of the woman and pronounced life extinct, giving it as his opinion that she had been brutally murdered, there being knife wounds on her breast, stomach, and abdomen. The body was that of a woman apparently about 35 years of age, she was about 5ft. 3in. in height, complexion and hair dark. Her dress, which was totally disarranged and torn, was a dark green skirt, a brown petticoat, a long black jacket and a black bonnet. The body of deceased was removed to the Whitechapel mortuary. The woman is unknown in the neighbourhood, and up to the present time has remained unidentified, although some persons have come forward stating that they know her, one identifying her as Martha Turner, a single woman, of 4, Star-place, Commercial-road. But as the evidence on this point is contradictory and uncertain, who deceased is remains unknown. The circumstances of this awful tragedy are not only surrounded with the deepest mystery, but there is also a feeling of insecurity to think that in a great city like London, the streets of which are continually patrolled by police, a woman could be foully and horribly killed almost next to the citizens peacefully sleeping in their beds, without a trace or clue being left of the villain who did the deed. There appears to be not the slightest trace of the murderer, and no clue has at present been found. Inspector Edison has placed the case in the hands of Inspector Reid, of the Criminal Investigation Department, and no pains are being spared to bring the criminal to justice.
On Thursday afternoon the inquest on the unfortunate woman was held in the large lecture room of the Working Lad's Institute, Whitechapel-road, by Mr. George Collier, the deputy coroner for the South Eastern division of Middlesex. There were "20 good and true men of this county" sworn in as jurymen, and Mr. F. W. Hurst was selected as foreman. Detective Inspector Reid watched the case on behalf of the police. The greatest interest was manifested in the proceedings and during the whole time the Coroner was painfully quiet. There was scarcely any one present except the authorities and those connected with the case, the public being conspicuous by their absence. As the matter of identification was so uncertain, it was decided to treat the deceased as unknown. The formal preliminaries of swearing in and viewing the body having been carried out, the case was opened. It was necessary to prove, if possible, the time at which the deceased got in the place in which she was found, so the first witness called was Mrs. Elizabeth Mahoney, of 47, George Yard-buildings, who stated she was employed in a match factory. On Bank Holiday she and her husband arrived home at 20 minutes to 2 and they went direct up the stone staircase to her lodgings and there was not a soul to be seen. She came down in about five minutes in order to get some supper from a chandler's shop, and again returned to her rooms, but did not notice anything or hear any noise. She remained there for the night, having been last outside at ten minutes to 2. During the night she heard no noise. The staircase is not lighted after 11 o'clock. She got up about half-past 8 on the following morning, and heard of the occurrence about 10 o'clock the same morning. She and her husband had to pass over the spot where the body of the deceased was found. There was room for them to pass by the place without seeing or stumbling over the body, so it might have been there without their knowing it. - Alfred George Crow, of 35, George Yard-buildings, was the next witness. He stated he was a cab driver, and came home at half-past 3 on Tuesday morning. He went up the same staircase as the previous witness but had no light. He, however, having good eyesight, noticed some body lying on the first landing, but could not discern whether it was that of a male or a female. He was accustomed to see people lying about there and did not take any notice, but simply went straight up to bed; neither did he know whether the person was dead or alive. From the time of his entering the room to the time of leaving it in the morning (about 9 o'clock) he did not hear any sound whatever. The body he saw might not have been the body of deceased. - The next witness was an important one, and his evidence was taken very minutely. John Saunders Reeves, a waterside labourer, said that on the morning in question he left home at a quarter to five, and on the first landing he saw a female lying on her back in a pool of blood. There were blood marks on the landing. He was somewhat frightened so did not examine her but gave information to the police at once. He went to his rooms about 6 o'clock the previous evening and remained there the whole night, hearing no unusual noises. He did not know the woman at all. It was quite light when he went down in the morning. All the clothes of the deceased were disarranged, as if she had had a struggle with someone. There were no footmarks on the staircase, neither was there any instruments, such as a knife, to be seen anywhere. He was quite certain she was dead. Her hands were clenched. - By a juryman: People could have gone upstairs in the dark without touching the body. - Police-constable Thomas Barrett, 26 H, was the next witness. He deposed that on Tuesday, August 7th, he was on duty about quarter to 5, and his attention was called to deceased by last witness. He went to the spot, and found a woman lying on her back in a pool of blood. She was dead. He sent another constable for a doctor, and on the arrival of Dr. Keeling, of Brick-lane, he pronounced her dead. There were no marks on the staircase. The body was not moved before the doctor arrived. Her hands were lying by her side, clenched up, and there was nothing in them. Her clothes were torn and completely disarranged, the bosom of the dress being torn away. She was in such a position as to lead him to infer that someone had been with her. Her clothes were thrown upwards. He did not know who she was or anything about her. - The medical evidence was then taken, and as this was the most important part of the case there was displayed the deepest attention as Dr. Timothy Robert Keeling, of Brick-lane, stood up and gave the results of his examination. He first said he was called about 5 o'clock, and arrived on the scene at half-past, when he found the woman was dead. Upon examination of the body externally, he found that it was punctured with wounds in 39 places in various parts of the body. In his opinion she had been dead about three hours. She appeared to be about 36 years of age, and the body was well nourished. He had since made a post mortem examination, and on opening the head found there was an effusion of blood between the scalp and the bone. The brain was pale but healthy. The left lung was penetrated in five places, and the right lung in two places, otherwise they were perfectly healthy. The heart was rather fatty and it was penetrated in one place, but otherwise it was healthy. There was nothing in it likely to cause death. The liver was in a healthy condition, but it was penetrated in five places. The spleen was perfectly healthy but penetrated in two places; the kidneys were also perfectly healthy, as was also the stomach, which was penetrated in six places. There was food in the process of digestion in the stomach. Dr. Keeling then described where the wounds had been made, and in answer to questions stated positively that there were no signs of there having been recent connexion. In his opinion the wounds were caused by a knife, or some such instrument, but there was a wound on the chest bone which could not have been caused by a knife. An ordinary penknife could have made most of the wounds, but the puncture in the chest must have been made with a sword bayonet or a dagger. The wounds, he was of the opinion, were inflicted during life, and it was impossible for them all to have been self-inflicted, though some of them might have been. Then in reply to questions from the coroner as to whether he could tell whether the wounds were made by a right or left-handed person, the doctor said one of the wounds might have been made by a left-handed man, but not the others. Here the coroner mentioned a case of murder in which Sir Astley Cooper stated that some pistol shots had been fired by a left-handed man, and it so happened that the man who was executed for the crime was a left-handed man. But Dr. Keeling thought this was only a coincidence. Continuing, the witness said there were no signs of a struggle whatever. The cause of death was hemorrhage, consequent on the puncture wounds. This concluded the evidence, and the coroner, having thanked Dr. Keeling for the very careful way in which he had given his testimony, addressed the jurymen, and explained that no witness had been brought forward to identify the body, inasmuch as several witnesses had come forward and identified the deceased under various names, consequently it was very uncertain, and it could be very well left to a future opportunity. Meanwhile, the police could make inquiries and endeavour to ascertain her proper name. The main object of that inquiry was to ascertain the cause of death, and afterwards to find out who was the cause of death. For that purpose the case would be left in the hands of Inspector Reid, who would use every endeavour to trace the perpetrator of this dreadful outrage. It was one of the most shocking things one could possibly imagine. The man who could have inflicted 39 wounds on a poor defenceless woman must have been a perfect savage, and for the purpose of giving the police time to investigate the matter and bring the murderer to justice, he would adjourn the inquiry for a fortnight. The usual formalities were then gone through and the inquest was adjourned.