Thursday, 27 September 1888
Yesterday afternoon Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for the South-Eastern Division of Middlesex, resumed his adjourned inquiry at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel, respecting the death of Annie Chapman, aged 47, a widow, who was found brutally murdered in the back yard of 29, Hanbury-street, Whitechapel, on the early morning of Saturday, the 8th inst.
Inspectors Helson, Chandler, and Bannister watched the case on behalf of the Commissioners of Police.
Having been informed there was no further evidence forthcoming,
The CORONER proceeded to sum up. He congratulated the jury that their labours were then nearly completed. Although up to the present they had not resulted in the detection of the criminal, he had no doubt that if the perpetrator of this foul murder were eventually discovered, their efforts would not have been useless. The evidence given was on the records of that Court, and could be used even if the witnesses were not forthcoming; while the publicity given had already elicited further information, which he would later on have to mention, and which he hoped was not sanguine in believing might perhaps be of the utmost importance. The deceased was a widow, 47 years of age, named Annie Chapman. Her husband was a coachman living at Windsor. For three or four years before his death she had lived apart from her husband, who allowed her 10s. a week until his death at Christmas, 1886. She had evidently lived an immoral life for some time, and her habits and surroundings had become worse since her means had failed. She no longer visited her relations, and her brother had not seen her for five months, when she borrowed a small sum from him. She lived principally in the common lodginghouses in the neighbourhood of Spitalfields, where such as she herded like cattle. She showed signs of deprivation, as if she had been badly fed. The glimpse of life in those dens which the evidence in this case disclosed was sufficient to make them feel there was much in the 19th century civilization of which they had small reason to be proud; but the jury, who were constantly called together to hear the sad tale of starvation, or semi-starvation, of misery, immorality, and wickedness which some of the occupants of the 5,000 beds in that district had every week to relate at coroner's inquests, did not require to be reminded of what life in a Spitalfields lodginghouse meant. It was in one of those that the older bruises found on the temple and in front of the chest of the deceased were received, in a trumpery quarrel, a week before her death. It was in one of those that she was seen a few hours before her mangled remains were discovered. On the afternoon and evening of Friday, the 7th of September, also spent her time partly in such a place, at 35, Dorset-street, and partly in the Ringers publichouse, where she spent whatever money she had; so that between 1 and 2 o'clock on the morning of Saturday, when the money for her bed was demanded, she was obliged to admit that she was without means, and at once turned out into the street to find it. She left there at 1 45 a.m. She was seen off the premises by the night watchman, and was observed to turn down Little Paternoster-row into Brushfield-street, and not in the more direct direction of Hanbury-street. On her wedding finger she was wearing two or three rings, which appeared to have been palpably of base metal, as the witnesses were all clear about their material and value. They now lost sight of her for about four hours, but at half-past 5 o'clock, Mrs. Long was in Hanbury-street, on the way from her home in Church-street, Whitechapel, to Spitalfields Market. She walked on the northern side of the road, going westward, and remembered having seen a man and woman standing a few yards from the place where the deceased was afterwards found, and, although she did not know Annie Chapman, she was positive that the woman was the deceased. The two were talking loudly, but not sufficiently so to arouse her suspicions that there was anything wrong. The words she overheard were not calculated to do so. The laconic inquiry of the man, "Will you?" and the simple assent of the woman, viewed in the light of the subsequent events, could be easily translated and explained. Mrs. Long passed on her way, and neither saw nor heard anything more of her, and that was the last time she was known to have been alive. There was some conflict in the evidence about the time at which the deceased was dispatched. It was not unusual to find inaccuracy in such details, but that variation was not very great or very important. She was found dead about 6 o'clock. She was not in the yard when Richardson was there at 4 50 a.m. She was talking outside the house at half-past 5, when Mrs. Long passed them. Cadosh said it was about 5:20 when he was in the back yard of the adjoining house and heard a voice say "No," and three or four minutes afterwards a fall against the fence; but if he was out of his reckoning but a quarter of an hour the discrepancy in the evidence of fact vanished; and he might be mistaken, for he admitted that he did not get up until a quarter past 5, and that it was after the half-hour when he passed the Spitalfields clock. It was true that Dr. Phillips thought that when he saw the body at 6:30 the deceased had been dead at least two hours, but he admitted that the coldness of the morning and the great loss of blood might affect his opinion, and if the evidence of the other witnesses was correct, Dr. Phillips had miscalculated the effect of those forces. But many minutes after Mrs. Long passed them could not have elapsed before the deceased became a mutilated corpse in the yard of No. 29, Hanbury-street, close by where she was last seen by any witness. That place was a fair example of a large number of houses in the neighbourhood. It was built, like hundreds of others, for the Spitalfields weavers, and when hand looms were driven out by steam and power they were converted into dwellings for the poor. Its size was about such as a superior artisan would occupy in the country, but its condition was such as would to a certainty leave it without a tenant. In that place 17 persons were living, from a woman and her son, sleeping in a cats' meat shop on the ground floor, to Davis and his wife and their three grown up sons, all sleeping together in an attic. The street door and the yard door were never locked, and the passage and yard appeared to have been constantly used by persons who had no legitimate business there. There was little doubt that deceased knew the place, for it was only 300 or 400 yards from where she lodged. If so, it was quite unnecessary to assume that her companion had any knowledge - in fact, it was easier to believe that he was ignorant both of the nest of living beings by whom he was surrounded, and of their occupations and habits. Some were on the move late at night, some were up long before the sun. A carman named Thompson left the house as early as 3:50 a.m.; an hour later John Richardson was paying the house a visit of inspection; shortly after 5:15 Cadosh, who lived in the next house, was in the adjoining yard twice. Davis, the carman who occupied the third floor front, heard the church clock strike a quarter to 6, got up, had a cup of tea, and went into the back yard, and was horrified to find the mangled body of the deceased. It was then a little after 6 a.m. - a very little, for at ten minutes past the hour Inspector Chandler had been informed of the discovery while on duty in Commercial-street. There was nothing to suggest that the deceased was not fully conscious of what she was doing. It was true that she had passed through some stages of intoxication, for although she appeared perfectly sober to her friend who met her in Dorset-street at 5 o'clock the previous evening, she had been drinking afterwards; and when she left the lodginghouse shortly after 2 o'clock, the night watchman noticed that she was the worse for drink, but not badly so, while the deputy asserts that, though she had been evidently drinking, she could walk straight, and it was probably only malt liquor that she had taken, and its effects would pass off quicker than if she had taken spirits. The post-mortem examination showed that while the stomach contained a meal of food, there was no sign of fluid and no appearance of her having taken alcohol, and Dr. Phillips was convinced that she had not taken any alcohol for some time. The deceased, therefore, entered the house in full possession of her faculties, although with a very different object to her companion's. From the evidence which the condition of the yard afforded and the medical examination disclosed, it appeared that after the two had passed through the passage and opened the swing door at the end, they descended the three steps into the yard. On their left-hand side there was a recess between those steps and the palings. Here, a few feet from the house and a less distance from the palings, they must have stood. The wretch must have then seized the deceased, perhaps with Judas-like approaches. He seized her by the chin. He pressed her throat, and while thus preventing the slightest cry, he at the same time produced insensibility and suffocation. There was no evidence of any struggle. The clothes were not torn. Even in those preliminaries, the wretch seems to have known how to carry out efficiently his nefarious work. The deceased was then lowered to the ground, and laid on her back; and although in doing so she may have fallen slightly against the fence, the movement was probably effected with care. Her throat was then cut in two places with savage determination, and the injuries to the abdomen commenced. All was done with cool impudence and reckless daring; but perhaps nothing was more noticeable than the emptying of her pockets, and the arrangement of their contents with business-like precision in order near her feet. The murder seemed, like the Buck's-row case, to have been carried out without any cry. None of the occupants of the houses by which the spot was surrounded heard anything suspicious. The brute who committed the offence did not even take the trouble to cover up his ghastly work, but left the body exposed to the view of the first comer. That accorded but little with the trouble taken with the rings, and suggested either that he had at length been disturbed, or that, as daylight broke, a sudden fear suggested the danger of detection that he was running. There were two things missing. Her rings had been wrenched from her fingers and had not since been found, and the uterus had been taken from the abdomen. The body had not been dissected, but the injuries had been made by some one who had considerable anatomical skill and knowledge. There were no meaningless cuts. The organ had been taken by one who knew where to find it, what difficulties he would have to contend against, and how he should used his knife so as to abstract the organ without injury to it. No unskilled person could have known where to find it or have recognized it when it was found. For instance, no mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out these operations. It must have been some one accustomed to the post mortem room. The conclusion that the desire was to possess the missing abdominal organ seemed overwhelming. If the object were robbery, the injuries to the viscera were meaningless, for death had previously resulted from the loss of blood at the neck. Moreover, when they found an easily accomplished theft of some paltry brass rings and an internal organ taken, after at least a quarter of an hour's work and by a skilled person, they were driven to the deduction that the abstraction of the missing portion of abdominal viscera was the object, and the theft of the rings was only a thin-veiled blind, an attempt to prevent the real intention being discovered. The amount missing would go into a breakfast cup, and had not the medical examination been of a thorough and searching character it might easily have been left unnoticed that there was any portion of the body which had been taken. The difficulty in believing that the purport of the murderer was the possession of the missing abdominal organ was natural. It was abhorrent to their feelings to conclude that a life should be taken for so slight an object; but when rightly considered the reasons for most murders were altogether out of proportion to their guilt. It had been suggested that the criminal was a lunatic with morbid feelings. That might or might not be the case, but the object of the murderer appeared palpably shown by the facts, and it was not necessary to assume lunacy, for it was clear there was a market for the missing organ. To show the jury that, he (the coroner) must mention a fact which at the same time proved the assistance which publicity and the newspaper Press afforded in the detection of crime. Within a few hours of the issue of the morning papers containing a report of the medical evidence given at the last sitting of the Court he received a communication from an officer of one of our great medical schools that they had information which might or might not have a distinct bearing on that inquiry. He attended at the first opportunity, and was informed by the sub-curator of the Pathological Museum that some months ago an American had called on him and asked him to procure a number of specimens of the organ that was missing in the deceased. He stated his willingness to give £20 apiece for each specimen. He stated that his object was to issue an actual specimen with each copy of a publication on which he was then engaged. He was told that his request was impossible to be complied with, but he still urged his request. He wished them preserved, not in spirits of wine, the usual medium, but glycerin, in order to preserve them in a flaccid condition, and he wished them sent to America direct. It was known that this request was repeated to another institution of similar character. Now was it not possible that the knowledge of this demand might have incited some abandoned wretch to possess himself of a specimen? It seemed beyond belief that such inhuman wickedness could enter into the mind of any man; but, unfortunately, our criminal annals proved that every crime was possible. He need hardly say that he at once communicated his information to the Detective Department at Scotland-yard. Of course he did know what use had been made of it, but he believed that publicity might possibly further elucidate this fact, and therefore he had not withheld the information. By means of the Press some further explanation might be forthcoming from America, if not from here. He had endeavoured to suggest to the jury the object with which this crime was committed and the class of person who must have committed it. The greatest deterrent from crime was the conviction that detection and punishment would follow with rapidity and certainty, and it might be that the impunity with which Mary Anne Smith and Ann Tabram [sic] were murdered suggested the possibility of such horrid crimes as those which the jury and another jury had been considering. It was therefore a great misfortune that nearly three weeks had already elapsed without the chief actor in this awful tragedy having been discovered. Surely it was not too much even yet to hope that the ingenuity of our detective force would succeed in unearthing this monster. It was not as if there were no clue to the character of the criminal or the cause of his crime. His object was clearly divulged. His anatomical knowledge carried him out of the category of a common criminal, for that knowledge could only have been obtained by assisting at post mortems or by frequenting the post mortem room. Thus the class in which search must be made, although a large one, was limited. In addition to the former description of the man Mrs. Long saw, they should know that he was a foreigner, of dark complexion, over 40 years of age, a little taller than deceased, of shabby genteel appearance, with a brown deerstalker hat on his head and a dark coat on his back. If the jury's views accorded with his, they would be of opinion that they were confronted with a murder of no ordinary character, committed not from jealousy, revenge, or robbery, but from motives less adequate than many which still disgraced our civilization, marred our progress, and blotted the pages of our Christianity.
The jury returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown," the Foreman remarking that they were going to add a rider with respect to the mortuary accommodation, but as that had already been done by another jury they would let it stand. The Foreman then said that, as the jury had been there on five occasions, the majority thought they should be excused from further attendance for at least two years.
The CORONER said if possible that would be done.
The lucid statement by the CORONER, which yesterday preceded the verdict of the jury in the inquest held upon the death of the woman CHAPMAN, throws an altogether different light upon the recent murders in Whitechapel, and attributes an appalling motive to what must be in any event a terrible crime. If the CORONER is right, – and his opinion is formed upon no fanciful conjecture, – we must reject all the theories which have been ventured by society in its gropings for an adequate motive. We have been schooled to believe that a maniac was indulging a craze for human blood, or that the criminal was a creature whom constant practice at the shambles had hardened to habits of slaughter, or that the crimes were perpetrated by some jealous woman, the companion in vice of the victims, and the police were even advised to search for some heathen sect which practised barbarous rites. The evidence given by DR. PHILLIPS, after making a post mortem examination of the body, first gave the case another complexion. The CORONER now drives that evidence home, and adds to it startling information which is entirely new to the public. It will be remembered that DR. PHILLIPS's evidence as to the nature of the wounds was given with some reluctance – a reluctance probably dictated at once by disinclination to shock the public with revolting details, and by a desire to keep secret the fact that the police were in possession of a valuable clue. Both these motives were theoretically laudable, and we are not prepared to say that in the majority of cases the course adopted by the CORONER, of insisting upon publicity, might not have turned out injudicious. But in the case before us the publication of the evidence of DR. PHILLIPS by the Press elicited a communication of the highest importance, which, if the secret had remained locked up in the breasts of the police, would, in all probability, never have been made at all. Upon the nature of the communication made to the CORONER from the Pathological Museum of one of the great medical schools we shall not dwell in detail. It is enough to say that, taken in connexion with the actual nature of the mutilation, it points strongly to the probability that the murder of CHAPMAN belongs to an unspeakable class of crimes which are committed in order to secure the premium offered by certain anatomists and pathologists for the possession of human bodies and human organs.
After carefully reviewing the evidence concerning the injuries inflicted upon CHAPMAN, the CORONER pronounces his deliberate judgement that "no mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out these operations. It must have been some one accustomed to the post mortem room." In support of this opinion, another circumstance suggests itself, which, though slight, is by no means unimportant when marshalled in company with the rest of the evidence. It is a singular fact, which goes to show that the murderer had some special knowledge of the method of suddenly arresting consciousness in his victim, that not a single cry was heard to escape CHAPMAN by the sixteen persons who were sleeping within a few yards of her. The same thing is to be noted in the case of the woman NICHOLLS [Nichols]. The general conclusion is that the murderer must have possessed surgical skill quite unusual in one who had not received professional training. It is when we come to place this conclusion by the side of the startling information received by the CORONER that we see the immense value of the clue. The field of search is at once vastly narrowed, and various, but precise, channels of inquiry must force themselves upon the attention of the directors of the Criminal Investigation Department. The "shabby genteel" man who was seen talking to CHAPMAN at an early hour in the morning, close to the place where she was murdered, must be, in point of station and education, considerably superior to the people upon whom the police at first concentrated their attention. He must be some one with anatomical knowledge. If we assume the CORONER's diagnosis of his motive to be correct, he must have had the pecuniary offer referred to, or some similar offer, brought to his notice. There is a perfect abundance of clues, provided that they are followed up. Nothing conflicts with the CORONER's theory except the robbery of the rings, which may have been a mere blind – here, again, the deliberation and intelligence of the murderer come in – and the fact that, so far as the public is aware, the same form of mutilation was not accomplished in the case of NICHOLLS; but it is hardly necessary to point out that it may have been unsuccessfully attempted. The CORONER hopes that the publicity which has, so far, served the inquiry so well will elicit fresh evidence, from America or elsewhere. We echo his hope, which is not unlikely to be realized; but at the same time it is just as well to remark that publicity is a double-edged weapon, and that while it enlists the whole of society in the detection of the crime, it simultaneously advertises the murderer of every step which is taken in his pursuit, and warns him against attempting to reap the reward of his atrocious crime.
Atrocious and infamous, indeed, is such a crime, and yet, to the disgrace of humanity, it is not without precedent. Sixty years ago the BURKE and HARE murders showed that, for the sake of the few pounds which careless anatomists would give for a body, two creatures in the guise of humanity could commit 14 murders one after the other. Two or three years after BURKE was executed, another monster named BISHOP was convicted of a similar offence. In the time of BURKE and HARE and BISHOP the price current for a human body was from £7 to £10, which, even allowing for the depreciation in the value of money, is less than the reward referred to in the CORONER's statement as having been offered by an American. Hardly different in principle are the murders, which are now becoming so frequent, of children for the sake of the sums for which they are insured in burial clubs. But it would be idle to deny that this murder – or this series of murders, for it is impossible to dissociate one from the others – has elements of atrocity which distinguish it from all previous efforts in crime. Society must perforce stand breathless and expectant while this latest phase of criminality is being hunted down and stamped out. The whole civilized world is concerned in bringing the murderer to justice, and it cannot afford to be beaten in the attempt. The police will be expected to follow up with the keenest vigilance the valuable clue elicited through the CORONER's inquest, and, since the lines of their investigation are plainly chalked out by information which they themselves failed to collect, it will be a signal disgrace if they do not succeed.