22 December 1888
Mr. Baxter opened an inquiry yesterday at the Poplar Townhall into the circumstances attending the death of a woman unknown, whose body was discovered lying in Clarke's-yard, High-street, Poplar, on Thursday, under circumstances which led to a supposition that she was the victim of foul play.
Police-sergeant R. Golding, 26 K, stated that at 4:15 a.m. on Thursday he was on duty in High-street, Poplar, in company with Police-constable 470 K. Whilst passing Mr. Clarke's yard he saw a heap of something lying some distance up the yard. He went up and examined it, and found it to be the body of a woman, apparently dead. She was lying on her left side, with her left arm under her. The body at the time was warm. The clothes were not disarranged. The woman was wearing a black dress made of alpaca, a brown stuff skirt, a red flannel petticoat, and white drawers and chemise. She also had on a dark tweed double-breasted jacket, blue stripped stockings, and springside boots. She had no hat on, and her hair was all rough and fell over her face. One earring was in the right ear. Witness said he did not meet anyone in High-street while he was patrolling it. He examined the ground, but could not find any marks as if a scuffle had taken place there. The features of the woman were familiar to him.
Mr. Brownfield, divisional surgeon of police, deposed that at 4:30 a.m. yesterday morning he was called by the police to a woman who'd been found lying in Clarke's-yard. His assistant attended, and pronounced her dead. Witness made a post mortem examination that morning. He found the body to be that of a woman about 30 years of age, five feet two inches high, complexion fair, hazel eyes, and moderately stout. She was well nourished. Blood was oozing from the nostrils, and on the right side was a slight abrasion. On the right cheek was a scar, apparently of old standing. The mark on the nose might have been caused by any slight violence. On the neck he found a mark which had evidently been caused by a cord drawn tightly round from the spine to the lobe of the left ear. He had since found the mark could be produced by a piece a fourfold lay cord. Beside that mark the impression of the thumbs and middle and index fingers was plainly visible on each side of the neck. There were no injuries to the arms or legs. On opening the brain, he found the vessels and engorged with dark, almost black, fluid blood. The lungs were congested and heart normal. The kidneys were congested, but not diseased. The stomach was full of meat and potatoes, which had only recently been eaten. There was a little fluid. There is no smell or sign of poison in the stomach. The cause of death, in witness's opinion, was suffocation by strangulation. There were no signs of a struggle except the mark on the cheek.
The Coroner. -- Do you think she could have done it herself?
Witness. -- No: I don't think so. If she had done it I would have expected to find the cord around the neck ; but it was not, nor has any cord been found near the spot.
The Coroner. -- To what do you attribute the finger marks?
Witness. -- I think they were made in her efforts to pull off the cord.
The Coroner. -- I think he said that the string had not gone right round the neck, but only from the spine to beneath the left ear traveling around the throat. How you account for that?
Witness. -- I think the murderer must have stood at the left rear of the woman, and having the ends of the string wrapped around his hands, thrown the cord around her throat, and crossing his hands so strangled her. Where the hands crossed would be just where the marks of the cord were absent.
The Coroner. -- Do you think the woman was held like that for any length of time?
Witness. -- I think the cord was pulled till after death had ensued. The cord being tight would prevent the woman from calling out for help. I may say that having studied the question as to the position the man, and the force used, I think it quite possible that the cord was run through two holes or rings, and twisted by the turn of the wrist until death ensued.
A Juror. -- Can say whether the deceased is a woman who has led an immoral life?
Witness. -- No, but I can say that she had never been a mother.
Police-constable T. Costellan deposed that his beat extended the whole length of High-street, and took in the spot where the woman was found. He went on duty at ten p.m. on Wednesday, and between then and the time the woman was found he passed the spot six times. On none of these occasions did he see anything to arouse his suspicions.
By the Jury. -- He did not know that the yard was very frequently used for immoral purposes. He had passed it often, and it never seen a man and a woman there. Besides witness there was another constable who controlled the left-hand side of High-street.
A Juror. -- Yes, but how often? I have seen a fight lasting over an hour take place in High-street, and people screaming, without ever a constable appearing on the spot. The inhabitants of Poplar are left far more unprotected then the people of Whitechapel, and it is a great wonder that more murders of this kind have not been done in the neighborhood.
The coroner said it seemed it very much as if a foul murder had been committed, and all the available evidence should be got before the jury concluded the case. Under these circumstances he thought it would be better to adjourn at this point, and gave his officer and the police time to make inquiries.
This was agreed to, the inquiry was then adjourned.
Mr. Mead, a blind and tarpaulin manufacturer, who has a workshop in Clarke's-yard, states that he closed his premises at ten o'clock on Wednesday night, and that when leaving the yard he did not observe anything unusual. Mr. William Paine, manager to Mr. Williams, provision merchant, 184, High-street, Poplar, states that though he was engaged at his employer's premises, which adjoin the scene of the murder, until four o'clock in the morning, he heard no disturbance of any kind, and similar statements are made by other residences in the locality. Up to a late hour last night the deceased had not been identified.