14 August 1889
Yesterday Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, Coroner for the South eastern Division of Middlesex, resumed his adjourned inquiry at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel, respecting the death of Alice M'Kenzie, who was found brutally murdered in Castle alley, Whitechapel, on the early morning of the 17th ult.
Detective Inspector Moore (Scotland yard) and Detective Inspector E. Reid, H Division, watched the case on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department.
Dr. George Bagster Phillips, divisional surgeon of the H Division, was recalled and deposed - On the occasion of my making the post mortem examination the attendants at the mortuary, on taking off the clothing of the deceased woman removed a short clay pipe, which one of them threw upon the ground, by which means it was broken. I had the broken pieces placed upon a ledge at the end of the post mortem table; but it has disappeared, and although inquiry had been made about it, up to the present time it has not been forthcoming. The pipe had been used. It came from the woman's clothing. The attendants, whom I have often seen there before, are old workhouse men. There were five marks on the abdomen, and, with the exception of one, were on the left side of the abdomen. The largest one was the lowest, and the smallest one was the exceptional one mentioned, and was typical of a fingernail mark. They were coloured, and in my opinion were caused by the fingernails and thumbnail of a hand. I have on a subsequent examination assured myself of the correctness of this conclusion.
The Coroner - When you first saw the body, how long should you say she had been dead? - Not more than half an hour, and very possibly a much shorter time. It was a wet and cold night. The deceased met her death, in my opinion, while lying on the ground on her back. The injuries to the abdomen were caused after death.
In what position do you think the assailant was at the time? - The great probability is that he was on the right side of the body at the time he killed her, and that he cut her throat with a sharp instrument. I should think the latter had a shortish blade and was pointed. I cannot tell whether it was the first or second cut that terminated the woman's life. The first cut, whether it was the important one or not, would probably prevent the woman from crying out on account of the shock. The whole of the air passages were uninjured, so that if she was first forced on to the ground she might have called out. The bruises over the collar-bone may have been caused by finger pressure. There were no marks suggestive of pressure against the windpipe.
[Coroner] Did you detect any skill in the injuries? - A knowledge of how effectually to deprive a person of life, and that speedily.
[Coroner] Are the injuries to the abdomen similar to those you have seen in the other cases? - No, Sir. I may volunteer the statement that the injuries to the throat are not similar to those in the other cases.
The Foreman. - Do I understand this pipe you speak of was in addition to the one produced on the last occasion? - Yes. I cannot tell from where it came, but my impression is that it came from the bosom of the dress. The knife that was used could not have been so large as the ordinary butcher's slaughter knife.
[Coroner] Were the finger-nail marks on the body those of the woman herself? - My impression is that they were caused by another hand. These marks were caused after the throat was cut.
Inspector Reid. - That is all the evidence we have.
The CORONER. - Then we have practically come to the end of this inquiry. Opportunity has now been given to ascertain whether any further light could be thrown upon this unfortunate case. The first point the jury have to consider is as to the identity of the deceased woman, and, fortunately, in regard to that there is no question. There is an interval of nearly five hours from when M'Cormack saw the deceased until she is seen between half-past 11 and 12 by some women in Flower and Dean-street. This is the last that was seen of her. At a quarter past 12 a constable had his supper under the very lamp under which the deceased was afterwards found, and at that time no one was near. Another constable was there at 25 minutes past 12, and the place was then all right. The officer next entered the alley at 12:50 and it was between those times that the murder must have been done. When the body was discovered there was no one about, and nothing suspicious had been seen. Had there been any noise, there were plenty of opportunities for it to have been heard. There is great similarity between this and the other class of cases which have happened in this neighbourhood, and if this crime has not been committed by the same person, it is clearly an imitation of the other cases. We have another similarity in the absence of motive. None of the evidence shows that the deceased was at enmity with any one. There is nothing to show why the woman is murdered or by whom. I think you will agree with me that so far as the police are concerned every care was taken after the death to discover and capture the assailant. All the ability and discretion the police have shown in their investigations have been unavailing, as in the other cases. The evidence tends to show that the deceased was attacked, laid on the ground and murdered. It is to be hoped that something will be done to prevent crimes of this sort and to make such crimes impossible. It must now be patent to the whole world that in Spitalfields there is a class of persons who, I think, cannot be found in such numbers, not only in any other part of this metropolis, but in any other metropolis; and the question arises, should this state of affairs continue to exist? I do not say it is for you to decide. The matter is one for a higher power than ourselves to suggest a remedy. But it certainly appears to me there are two ways in which the matter ought to be attacked. In the first place, it ought to be attacked physically. Many of the houses in the neighbourhood are unfit for habitation. They want clearing away and fresh ones built. Those are physical alterations which, I maintain, require to be carried out there. Beyond this there is the moral question. Here we get a population of the same character, and not varied, as in a moderately-sized town or village. Here there is a population of 20,000 of the same character, not one of whom is capable of elevating the other. Of course there is an opinion among the police that it is a proper thing that this seething mass should be kept together rather than be distributed all over the metropolis. Every effort ought to be made to elevate this class. I am constantly struck by the fact that all the efforts of charitable and religious bodies here are comparatively unavailing. It is true a great deal has been done of late years, especially to assist the moral development of the East-end, but it is perfectly inadequate to meet the necessities of the case. If no other advantage comes from these mysterious murders, they will probably wake up the Church and others to the fact that it is the duty of every parish in the West to have a mission and localize work in the East-end, otherwise it will be impossible to stop these awful cases of crime. Here is a parish of 21,000 persons with only one church in it. There are not only cases of murder here, but many of starvation. I hope at least these cases will open the eyes of those who are charitable to the necessity of doing their duty by trying to elevate the lower classes.
The jury, after a short deliberation, returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown," and added a rider endorsing the remarks of the Coroner, and requesting him to forward a recommendation to the County Council, and the Whitechapel District Board of Works to open up Castle-alley to the Whitechapel High-street as a thoroughfare.