This report from The Times of November 13, 1888, describes the inquest into Mary Jane Kelly’s death

The Times

The Whitechapel Murder

During yesterday several arrests were made, but after a short examination in all cases the persons were set at liberty, as it was felt certain they had no connexion with the crime. Dorset-street still continues to be a thoroughfare of great interest, and during the whole of the day people, who were evidently drawn thither solely out of curiosity, passed up and down the street, while before the entrance of Miller’s-court a crowd collected. They were not, however, allowed to enter the court, which was guarded by two police constables.

Some surprise was created among those present at the inquest in the Shoreditch Town-hall by the abrupt termination of the inquiry, as it was well known that further evidence would be forthcoming. The Coroner himself distinctly told the jury that he was only going to take the preliminary portion of Dr. G. B. Phillips’s evidence, the remainder of which would be more fully given at the adjourned inquiry. No question was put to Dr. Phillips as to the mutilated portions of the body, and the Coroner did not think fit to ask the doctor whether any portions of the body were missing. The doctor stated to the Coroner during the inquiry that his examination was not yet completed. His idea was that by at once making public every fact brought to light in connexion with this terrible murder, the ends of justice might be retarded. The examination of the body by Dr. Phillips on Saturday lasted upwards of six-and-a-half hours. Notwithstanding reports to the contrary, it is still confidently asserted that some portions of the body of the deceased woman are missing.

The explanation given of why the bloodhounds were not used is that they would be of no use whatever in the locality in which this murder took place. Had it occurred in an open, unfrequented part, the dogs might have had some chance of success.

The police yesterday evening received an important piece of information. A man, apparently of the labouring class, with a military appearance, who knew the deceased, stated that on the morning of the 9th inst. he saw her in Commercial-street, Spitalfields (near where the murder was committed), in company with a man of respectable appearance. He was about 5ft. 6in. in height, and 34 or 35 years of age, with dark complexion and dark moustache turned up at the ends. He was wearing a long, dark coat, trimmed with astrachan, a white collar with black necktie, in which was affixed a horse-shoe pin. He wore a pair of dark gaiters with light buttons, over button boots, and displayed from his waistcoat a massive gold chain. His appearance contrasted so markedly with that of the woman that few people could have failed to remark them at that hour of the morning. This description, which confirms that given by others of the person seen in company with the deceased on the morning she was killed, is much fuller in detail than that hitherto in the possession of the police.

Yesterday morning Dr. Roderick M’Donald, M.P., coroner for North-East Middlesex, opened the inquiry into the cause of the death of Mary Jane Kelly, the young woman who was found dead and horribly mutilated on Friday morning last, at a house in Miller’s-court, Dorset-street, Whitechapel. The inquiry took place at the Shoreditch Town-hall. Great interest was manifested in the proceedings by the crowds which had assembled both inside and outside the hall. Some little difficulty arose at the outset, one of the jurymen objecting to being summoned, as, he contended, the death did not take place in Shoreditch, but in the adjoining parish of Whitechapel. The CORONER said he was quite aware what jurisdiction he had. The jury had no business to object on the ground mentioned, and if the objection was persisted in, he should know how to act. He was not going to discuss the matter of jurisdiction with the jury at all. The body lay in his district, and he should have to conduct the inquiry.

The jury proceeded to the mortuary at the rear of Shoreditch Church to view the body, afterwards, by the coroner’s directions, visiting the scene of the crime. They were absent nearly an hour.

Superintendent Arnold and Inspectors F. G. Abberline and Nairn watched the proceedings on behalf of the authorities.

Before the first witness was called the CORONER said he should like to state that it was not correct, as had been asserted, that he had had any communication with Mr. Wynne Baxter on the question of jurisdiction. There was no question whatever as to his right to hold the inquiry. One of the previous murders had taken place in his district, but the body was removed into Mr. Baxter’s district, and that gentleman, of course, conducted the inquiry.

Joseph Barnett was then called, and said he was a labourer working by the riverside, and up to Saturday last he lived at 24, New-street, Bishopsgate, having been staying at 21 Ponpool-lane since then. He had lived with the deceased Marie Jeannette Kelly for a year and eight months, and had seen the body in the mortuary, which he identified. He was quite positive the body was that of the woman he lived with. Kelly was her maiden name. He had lived with her at 13 room in Miller’s-court about eight months, and ceased to live with her on October 30, because she insisted on taking in a woman of immoral character. It was not because he was out of work that he ceased to live with her. He last saw her alive about 7 30 on Thursday evening, when they were on friendly terms. She was quite sober at that time and did not have anything to drink with witness. Deceased occasionally got drunk, but generally speaking she was sober when she lived with him. She had told him several times that she was born in Limerick, but removed to Wales when quite young. Witness could not say whether it was at Carnarvon or Carmarthen that she lived, but her father was employed at some ironworks. She also told witness that she had a sister who resided with her aunt and followed a respectable calling. She had six brothers and sisters, one of the former being in the army. She told him she had married a collier named Davis in Wales when she was 16 years of age, and lived with him until he was killed in an explosion a year or two afterwards. After her husband’s death she went to Cardiff with a cousin and came to London about four years ago. She lived at a gay house in the West-end for a short time, and then went to France with a gentleman, but did not like it and soon returned to London, living in Ratcliff-highway, near the gasworks, with a man named Morganstone. She afterwards lived with a mason named Joseph Fleming somewhere in Bethnal-green. Deceased told witness all her history while she lived with him. Witness picked her up in Spitalfields on a Friday night, and made an appointment to meet her the next day, when they agreed to live together, and they had done so ever since. He did not think deceased feared any one in particular, but she used to ask witness to read to her about the murders. She occasionally quarrelled with witness, but not often, and seldom with anybody else.

Thomas Bowyer said he resided at 37, Dorset-street, and acted as servant to Mr. M’Carthy, the owner of a chandler’s shop at 27, Dorset-street. About 10 45 on Friday morning he was directed by Mr. M’Carthy to go to deceased’s room for the rent. Witness knew the deceased only as Mary Jane. He knocked at the door, but did not receive an answer. He knocked again, but still no answer was returned, and he then went round the corner where there was a broken pane of glass in the window.

Inspector Ledger, G Division, here handed in a plan of the premises, which was shown to the witness, who indicated the window he referred to.

Continuing his evidence, the witness said there was a curtain before the window, which he pulled aside and looked in. The first thing he observed was what appeared to be two pieces of flesh lying on the table in front of the bedstead. The second time he looked in he saw a body lying on the bed and blood on the floor. He immediately returned to Mr. M’Carthy and told him what he had seen. Mr. M’Carthy exclaimed “Good God, do you mean that Harry?” Mr. M’Carthy went and looked through the window, and then they both went to the police-station and told what they had seen. At that time no other persons in the court knew what had occurred. He returned to the room with Inspector Beck. He last saw deceased alive on Wednesday last in the court and spoke to her. He had seen deceased under the influence of drink once; and he was acquainted with the last witness, Joe Barnett.

John M’Carthy said he was a grocer and lodging-house keeper at 27, Dorset-street. On Friday morning about half-past 10 he sent the last witness to No. 13 room in Miller’s-court to call for the rent. He returned in about five minutes and told witness that as he could not get an answer to his knock he looked through the window and saw a lot of blood. Witness went to the room and looked through the window and saw the body. When he recovered from the shock the sight gave him he went for the police. He knew the deceased, and, having seen the body, he had no doubt about her identity. At the police-station he saw Inspector Beck, who went back to the house with him. Deceased had lived in that room about 10 months with the man Joe. He did not know whether they were married or not. A short time ago they had a row and the windows were broken. Deceased was supposed to pay 4s. 6d. per week for the room, but she was £1 9s, in arrear. Everything in the room, including the bed clothing, belonged to witness. He had often seen the deceased the worse for drink, and when she was in liquor she was very noisy; otherwise she was a very quiet woman.

Mary Ann Cox said she resided at the last house at the top of Miller’s-court. She was a widow and got her living on the streets. She last saw deceased alive about a quarter to 12 on Thursday night. Deceased was very much intoxicated at that time and was with a short, stout man, shabbily dressed, with a round billycock hat on. He had a can of beer in his hand. He had a blotchy face and a heavy carrotty moustache. Witness followed them into the court and said good night to the deceased, who replied, “Good night; I am going to sing.” The door was shut and witness heard the deceased singing, “Only a violet I plucked from mother’s grave.” Witness went to her room and remained there about a quarter of an hour, and then went out. Deceased was still singing at that time. It was raining, and witnessed returned home at 3 10 a.m., and the light in deceased’s room was then out and there was no noise. Witness could not sleep, and heard a man go out of the court about a quarter past 6. It might have been a policeman for all witness knew. The man she saw with the deceased was short and stout. All his clothes were dark and he appeared to be between 35 and 36 years of age. She would know the man again if she saw him.

Elizabeth Prater, a married woman, living apart from her husband, said she occupied No. 20 room, Miller’s-court, her room being just over that occupied by the deceased. If deceased moved about in her room much witness could hear her. Witness lay down on her bed on Thursday night or Friday morning about 1 30 with her clothes on, and fell asleep directly. She was disturbed during the night by a kitten in the room. That would be about half-past 3 or 4 o’clock. She then distinctly heard in a low tone and in a woman’s voice a cry of “Oh! murder.” The sound appeared to proceed from the court and near where witness was. She did not take much notice of it, however, as they were continually hearing cries of murder in the court. She did not hear it a second time, neither did she hear a sound of falling, and she dropped off to sleep again and did not wake until 5 o’clock. She then got up and went to the Five Bells publichouse and had some rum. She did not see any strangers in the publichouse. She was quite sure there was no singing in deceased’s room after 1 30 that morning, or she would have hear it.

Caroline Maxwell, of 14, Dorset-street, wife of Henry Maxwell, a lodging-house deputy, said she had known the deceased about four months, and she also knew Joe Barnett. The deceased was a young woman who did not associate much with strangers, and witness had only spoken to her twice. On Friday morning between 8 and 8 30 she saw the deceased at the corner of Miller’s-court. She was quite sure it was the deceased, and was certain about the time because it was the time her husband left off work. It being an unusual thing to see the deceased about so early, witness spoke to her and asked her to have a drink. Deceased refused, saying she was very ill, and had just had a half-pint of ale, which she brought up again. Witness left her saying she could pity her feeling. On returning half an hour later witness saw the deceased standing outside the Britannia publichouse, talking to a man. That would be between 8 and 9 o’clock on Friday morning. She could not give any description of the man deceased was with because they were some distance off. She did not pass them, as she came from the other end of the court. She was quite positive it was the deceased, but could not describe the man. He was not a tall man. Deceased had on a dark skirt, velvet bodice, and maroon shawl.

SarahLewis, a laundress, of 24, Great Pearl-street, Spitalfields, said she went to the house of Mrs. Keyler, in Miller’s-court, on Friday morning about 2 30, and saw a man standing at the lodging-house door by himself. He was a stout, but not very tall, and had on a wideawake hat. Witness did not take any notice of his clothes. She did not hear any noise as she went down the court, but about 3 30, when she was in Mrs. Keyler’s house, she heard a woman cry “Murder.” As it was not repeated, she did not take any further notice of it. On Wednesday evening, as she was going along Bethnal-green-road with another woman, they were accosted by a man who was carrying a black bag, and who asked one of them to follow him into a court. They became alarmed and refused to do so. He was not a tall man. He had a black moustache and was very pale. He had on a round hat, a brown overcoat, a black undercoat, and “pepper and salt” trousers. Witness could not say where he went to, but on Friday morning about 2 30 she saw him again, speaking to a woman in Commercial-street, but he was dressed a little differently.

The CORONER said he proposed at that stage to take, briefly, the evidence of the doctor. They could not go into all the particulars at that stage.

Dr. George Bagster Phillips said,—I reside at 2, Spital-square, and am divisional surgeon to the H Division of police. I was called by the police on Friday morning about 11 o’clock and proceeded to Miller’s-court, which I entered at 11 15. I went to the room door leading out of the passage running at the side of 26, Dorset-street. There were two windows to the room. I produce a photograph which will enable you to see exactly the position. Two panes in the window nearest to the passage were broken, and finding the door locked I looked through the lower of the broken panes and satisfied myself that the mutilated corpse lying on the bed was not in need of any immediate attention from me. I also came to the conclusion that there was nobody else upon the bed or within view to whom I could render any professional assistance. Having ascertained that probably it was advisable that no entrance should be made into the room at that time, I remained until about 1 30, when the door was broken open, by Mr. M’Carthy I believe. I know he was waiting with a pickaxe to break open the door, and I believe he did it. The direction to break open the door was given by Superintendent Arnold. I prevented its being opened before. I may mention that when I arrived in the yard the premises were in charge of Inspector Beck. On the door’s being forced open it knocked against the table. The table I found close to the left-hand side of the bedstead, and the bedstead was close up against the wooden partition. The mutilated remains of a female were lying two-thirds over towards the edge of the bedstead nearest to the door. She had only her chemise on, or some under linen garment. I am sure the body had been removed subsequent to the injury which caused her death from that side of the bedstead which was nearest to the wooden partition, because of the large quantity of blood under the bedstead and the saturated condition of the palliasse and the sheet at the corner nearest the partition. The blood was produced by the severance of the carotid artery, which was the immediate cause of death. This injury was inflicted while deceased was lying at the right side of the bedstead.

The CORONER said it would not be necessary for the doctor to go into any further particulars then. If it was necessary they could recall him at a subsequent period.

After a short adjournment, Julia van Teurney, a laundress, of No. 1 room, Miller’s-court, was called, and said she knew the deceased and Joseph Barnett. They appeared to live together very quietly, and Joe would not allow the deceased to go on the streets. She occasionally got too much to drink. She told witness that she had another man, named Joe also, of whom she appeared to be very fond. Witness believed this second Joe was a costermonger. She last saw the deceased alive about 10 o’clock on Thursday morning. Witness slept in the court that night, retiring to bed about 8 o’clock. She could not sleep, but did not hear any noise in the court during the night. She did not hear the deceased singing during the night.

Maria Harvey, No 3, New-court, Dorset-street, said she knew the deceased, Mary Jane Kelly. Witness slept with the deceased on Monday and Tuesday nights, They were together on Thursday afternoon, and witness was in the deceased’s room when Joe Barnett called. Witness left the house on Thursday evening, leaving several articles in the deceased’s care, including sheets, an overcoat, and a bonnet. She had not seen any of the articles except the overcoat since. The deceased and witness were great friends, but the deceased never said anything to witness about being afraid of a man. Inspector Walter Beck, H Division, said on Friday morning he was called to the house and ascertained what has occurred. He did not give orders to force the door, but sent for the doctor, and gave orders that no one should be allowed to leave the court. He did not know whether the deceased was known to the police.

Frederick G. Abberline, detective-inspector, Scotland-yard, having charge of this case, said he arrived at Miller’s-court about 11 30 on Friday. He did not break open the door as Inspector Beck told him that the bloodhounds had been sent for and were on the way, and Dr. Phillips said it would be better not to break open the door until the dogs arrived. At 1 30 Superintendent Arnold arrived, and said the order for the dogs had been countermanded, and he gave orders to force the door. Witness had seen the condition of the room through the window. He examined the room after the door had been forced. From the appearance of the grate it was evident a very large fire had been kept up. The ashes had since been examined, and it was evident that portions of a woman’s clothing had been burnt. It was his opinion that the clothes had been burnt to enable the murderer to see what he was about. There were portions of a woman’s skirt and the rim of a hat in the grate. An impression had got abroad that the murderer had taken the key of the room away, but that was not so, as Barnett had stated that the key had been lost some time ago, and when they desired to get into the room they pushed back the bolt through the broken window.

The CORONER said that was all the evidence he proposed to take that day. He did not know whether the jury considered they had had enough evidence to enable them to return a verdict. All they had to do was to ascertain the cause of death, leaving the other matters in the hands of the police.

The Foreman said the jury considered they had heard enough to guide them to a decision, and they desired to return a verdict of “Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.”

It will be remembered that, at Sir Charles Warren’s request, Mr. Brough, the well-known bloodhound breeder of Scarborough was communicated with shortly after the Mitre-square and Berner-street tragedies, and asked to bring a couple of trained hounds up to London for the purpose of testing their capabilities in the way of following the scent of a man. The hounds were named Burgho and Barnaby, and in one of the trials Sir Charles Warren himself acted as the quarry and expressed satisfaction at the result. Arrangements were made for the immediate conveyance of the animals to the spot in the event of another murder occurring, and in order to facilitate matters Mr. Brough, who was compelled to return to Scarborough, left the hounds in the care of Mr. Taunton, of 8 Doughty-street, who is a friend of his. Mr. Taunton, who is a high authority on matters appertaining to the larger breeds of dogs, has ample accommodation in the rear of his residence for kennelling such valuable animals, and he was accordingly entrusted with their custody pending the conclusion of the negotiations which had been opened for the ultimate purchase of the dogs. Sir. Charles Warren, however, it is said, would not give any definite assurance on the point, and the result was Mr. Brough insisted on resuming possession of the animals. Mr. Taunton has made the following statement:—After the trial in Regent’s Park Burgho was sent to Brighton, where he had been entered for the show, which lasted three days. In the meantime Barnaby remained in my care. Burgho would have been sent back to me, but as Mr. Brough could not get anything definite from Sir Charles Warren, he declined to do so, and wrote asking me to return Barnaby. I did not do so at first, but, acting on my own responsibility, retained possession of the dog for some time longer. About a fortnight ago I received a telegram form Leman-street Police-station asking me to bring up the hounds. It was then shortly after noon, and I took Barnaby at once. On arriving at the station I was told by the superintendent that a burglary had been committed about 5 o’clock that morning in Commercial-street, and I was asked to attempt to track the thief by means of the dog. The police admitted that since the burglary they had been all over the premises. I pointed out the stupidity of expecting a dog to accomplish anything under such circumstances and after such a length of time had been allowed to elapse, and took the animal home. I wrote telling Mr. Brough of this, and he wired insisting that the dog should be sent back at once, as the danger of its being poisoned, if it were known that the police were trying to track burglars by its aid, was very great, and Mr. Brough had no guarantee against any pecuniary loss he might suffer in the event of the animal’s being maltreated. Therefore there has not been a “police bloodhound”—that is to say, a trained hound, in London for the past fortnight. The origin of the tale regarding the hounds being lost at Tooting while being practised in tracking a man I can only account for in the following way. I had arranged to take Barnaby out to Hemel Hempstead to give the hound some practice. The same day a sheep was maliciously killed on Tooting-common, and the police wired to London asking that the hounds might be sent down. I was then some miles away from London with Barnaby, and did not get the telegram until on my return, late in the evening. Somebody doubtless remarked that the hounds were missing, meaning that they did not arrive when sent for, and this was magnified into a report that they had been lost. At that time Burgho was at Scarborough. Under the circumstances in which the body of Mary Ann Kelly was found I do not think bloodhounds would have been of any use. It was then broad daylight and the streets crowded with people. The only chance the hounds would have would be in the event of a murdered body being discovered, as the others were, in the small hours of the morning, and being put on the trail before many people were about.

Source: The Times []