1 September 1888
A horrible murder was discovered early yesterday morning in Whitechapel. A constable on his beat discovered the dead body of a woman lying in Buck's row. Her throat was cut from ear to ear, and she bore other wounds of a revolting description. The body has been identified as that of Mary Anne Nicholls, who was formerly a domestic servant, but who has lately been living a wandering life. No arrests have been made. The police are of opinion that the deceased was murdered in a house, and afterwards carried to the spot where she was found.
At an early hour yesterday morning, while the fire was raging in the London Docks, another conflagration broke out in the Ratcliff dry dock. It was some time before a sufficient force of engines and firemen could be spared from the fire in the London Docks to deal with that in the Ratcliff dock, and a considerable amount of property was destroyed. A sailing vessel which was in the dock was injured.
The particulars of the latest dreadful murder in the East end of London will horrify the public. The outrage is almost unequalled in the annals of crime. It is fiendish in conception and revoltingly cruel in execution. Our civilisation is a wretched mockery while crimes like this are committed in our streets; its boasted resources are miserable ineffectual while monsters like the murderer or murderers of this unhappy woman walk abroad. Sir John Lubbock has said that the lowest type of life in East end rookeries is lower, mentally and morally, then the life of the average savage. It would, indeed, be difficult to find among the lower races instances of crime excelling in barbarity that which now makes the public imagination reel in angered disgust. We do not remember, even among cases of East Indian wife murder, a crime more barbarously brutal than this. It was apparently motiveless. The victim seems to have been an unfortunate of the lowest degree. As such she would have nothing about her worth stealing. What could possible have induced her murderer or murderers to put an end to her life, and to do so in the diabolical way in which it was done, is as yet a fearful mystery. The suggestion is made that the crime was committed by a maniac, and that the other murders that have lately occurred in the neighbourhood point to the fact that a being inspired by a hellish mania for homicide is at large. The deed is so inhumanly ferocious and many of its circumstances are so analogous to the discovery a few weeks ago of a woman on a landing of a lodging house with thirty nine deadly stabs upon her, that the suggestion has some colour of truth. But if so, there is much method in this maniac's madness. It is hard to believe that a man so fiercely mad could walk even in the East end undetected. Even there a man cannot live quite alone. He must come into contact with some persons, and surely there would be one shrewd enough to formulate suspicions and act upon them. Another, and a more reasonable suggestion, though it violates the better instincts, is that there exists in the East end a "high rip" gang who levy blackmail upon wretched outcasts, and murder them when submission is not accorded to their demands. It is a horrible theory for the crime; but the facts are there, terrible enough in their nature to justify any theory, however revolting. It is doubtful where the murder was committed. The details now hourly accumulating rend to show that Buck's row was not the scene, but that the body was merely flung there by the perpetrators of the crime. If so there is more chance of their being brought to justice. The greater the number implicated, the more numerous the minds that hold this awful secret, the more probability is there of the scaffold having its due. All eyes are now turned upon the London police. The air is rife with rumours of discord and discontent in the force and of cross purposes among the controlling authorities of it. All this must be brushed ruthlessly aside. The public does not want to know of it. If it exists it must be buried by those responsible for it, in the face of the terrible necessity of tracking out the undiscovered murders that have lately shocked society. This much the public demands of the police. The detective department is on its trial. It must be judged not only by its acts, but by what it fails in. It must justify itself by bringing the criminals in this and in other brutal murders to the scaffold. Otherwise it will stand condemned.
The Press Association says that Assistant Commissioner Monro, of the Metropolitan Police, whose resignation was gazetted on Tuesday evening, has already left Scotland yard, and Mr. Robert Anderson, the new assistant commissioner, will enter upon the duties at an early day. The present crisis is, the Press Association adds, beyond doubt attributable to the inability of Mr. Monro to adapt himself to conditions which the Chief Commissioner, in the exercise of his discretion, has thought fit to establish as supreme head of the force.
A murder of the foulest kind was committed somewhere in the neighbourhood of Whitechapel in the early hours of yesterday morning, but by whom and with what motive is at present a complete mystery. At a quarter to four o'clock Police constable Neill, 97 J, when in Buck's row, Whitechapel, came upon the body of a woman lying on a part of the footway, and on stooping to raise her up in the belief that she was drunk, he discovered that her throat was cut almost "from ear to ear." She was dead, but still warm. He procured assistance and sent at once to the station and for a doctor. Dr. Llewellyn, of Whitechapel road, whose surgery is not above 300 yards from the spot where the woman lay, was aroused, and at the request of constable dressed and went at once to the scene. He inspected the body where it was found and pronounced the woman dead. He made a hasty examination, and then discovered that besides the gash across the throat the woman had terrible wounds in the abdomen, from which the intestines were protruding. The police ambulance from the Bethnal green station having arrived, the body was removed there. A further examination revealed the horrible nature of the crime, for the lower parts of the woman's body were found to be laid open, some sharp cutting instrument having been used, and three or four separate gashes inflicted. One part of the person had been sliced off, and from the vagina to the breast bone the knife had ripped the poor creature right up. There were other gashes, right and left, dividing the stomach and its coatings to the intestines. Any one of the wounds was sufficient to cause death, apart from the gashes across the throat.
After the body was removed to the mortuary of the parish, in Old Montague street, Whitechapel, steps were taken to secure, if possible, identification, but at first with little prospect of success. The deceased woman's clothing was of a common description, but the skirt of one petticoat bore the stencil stamp of Lambeth Workhouse. The only articles in the pockets were a comb and a piece of looking glass. The latter led the police to conclude that the murdered woman was an inhabitant of the numerous lodging houses of the neighbourhood, and officers were despatched to make inquiries while a messenger was sent to Lambeth to get the matron to view the body for the purpose of identification. The latter, however, could not identify the woman, and said that the clothing might have been issued any time during the past two or three years. As the news of the murder spread, however, first one woman and then another came forward to view the body, and at length it was found that a person answering the description of the murdered woman had lodged in a common lodging house, 18 Thrawl street, Spitalfields. Women from that place were fetched and they identified the deceased as a woman known as "Polly," who had shared a room with three other women in the place on the usual terms of such houses - nightly payment of 4d each, each woman having a separate bed. It was gathered that the deceased had led the life of an "unfortunate" whilst lodging in the house, which was only for about three weeks past. Nothing more was known of her by them, but that when she presented herself for her lodging on Thursday night she was turned away by the deputy, because she had not the money to pay for her bed. She then went away laughing, saying, "I'll soon get my 'doss' money; see what a jolly bonnet I've got now." She was wearing a bonnet which she had not been seen with before. A woman of the neighbourhood told the police she saw her as late as half past two o'clock on Friday morning in Whitechapel road, opposite the church and at the corner of Osborne street; and at a quarter to four o'clock she was found within 500 yards of the spot murdered. The people of the lodging house knew her as "Polly," but at about half past seven a woman named Mary Ann Monk, at present an inmate of Lambeth Workhouse, was taken to the mortuary and identified the body as that of Mary Ann Nicholls, also called "Polly" Nicholls, and having twice viewed the features as the corpse lay in a shell, she maintained her opinion. So far the police have satisfied themselves, but as to getting a clue to her murderer they express little hope. Much that is erroneous and merely wild imagination has already appeared about the discovery. It has been stated that blood could be traced in thick spots and small pools from the spot where the body was found far down Buck's row to a lateral thoroughfare called Brady street. The police deny that statement. The matter is being investigated by Detective Inspector Abberline, of Scotland yard, and Inspector Helson, J Division. The latter states that he walked carefully over the ground soon after eight o'clock in the morning, and beyond the discolorations ordinarily found on pavements there was no stain. Viewing the spot where the body was found, however, it seems difficult to believe that the woman received her death wounds there. The body must have been nearly drained of blood, but that found in Buck's row was small indeed. The police have no theory with respect to the matter, except that in the neighbourhood a sort of "high rip" gang exists, which, "blackmailing" women of the "unfortunate" class, takes vengeance on those who do not find money for them. They base that surmise on the fact that within twelve months two other women have been murdered in the district by almost similar means - one as recently as the 6th of August last - and left in the gutter of the street in the early hours of the morning. The other theory is that the woman was murdered in a house where she had gone for an immoral purpose, and that she was killed whilst undressed, her clothes being then huddled on the body, which was afterwards conveyed out to be deposited in the street. Colour is lent to this by the comparatively small quantity of blood found on the clothes and by the fact that the clothes are not cut. If the woman was murdered on the spot where it was found it is almost impossible to believe she would not have aroused the neighbourhood by her scresms, Buck's row being a street tenanted all down one side by a respectable class of people, superior to the residents of many of the surrounding streets, the other side having a blank wall bounding a warehouse.
Dr. Llewellyn, who was formerly a house surgeon of the London Hospital, has given his opinion as to the manner in which the murder was committed. He said that the woman was killed by the cuts on the throat - there are two, and the throat is divided back to the vertebrae. He had called the attention of the police to the smallness of the quantity of blood on the spot where he saw the body, and yes the gashes in the abdomen laid the body right open. The weapon used could scarcely have been a sailor's jack knife; it was probably a pointed weapon with a stout back, such as a cork cutter's or shoemaker's knife. In Dr. Llewellyn's opinion it was not an exceptionally long bladed weapon. He does not believe that the woman was seized from behind, and that her throat was then cut; but thinks that a hand was held across her mouth, and the knife then used, possibly by a left handed man, as the bruising on the face of the deceased is such as would result from the mouth being covered, though with the right hand. He made a second examination of the body in the mortuary, and on that based his conclusion, but will make no formal post mortem examination until he receives the coroner's orders.
The inquest is fixed for today (Saturday).