I believe the first challenge to Dr. George B. Phillips' opinions about the murder of Annie Chapman appeared when the inquest reconvened on Wednesday, 12 September, 1888. The first witness was John Richardson, eldest son of Mrs. Amelia Richardson. Between 4:45 am and 4:50 am on Saturday, 8 September, before reporting to his job as a porter at the Spitafields market, John stopped by his mother's residence at 29 Hanbury Street to check on her basement workshop, from which tools had been stolen weeks earlier. The first light of dawn had appeared just after 4:50 that morning - sunrise would be at 5:23 am. And standing on the threshold of the back door, John could clearly see the padlock six feet away on the basement door was still snapped shut, and the door secure. He did not need to move closer. But then John did something crucial.
He sat on the top step, with his feet resting in the yard, and struggled to cut some leather off his shoes, which were crimping his toes. He sat on the step, John estimated, for “two minutes at most”. But it was a crucial two minutes. It was light enough, John said, that he could see the entire back yard clearly. And with his head down, he could certainly see 6 inches.
He insisted, “I could not have failed to notice the deceased had she been lying there, then.” And if she was not there, then - within 6 inches of John Richardson - then Dr. Phillips was wrong when he said Dark Annie died between 3:30 and 4:30 that morning,
John's mother, Amelia Richardson, then testified that the leather apron found in the back yard belonged to her younger son. She had washed it under the backyard tap on Thursday and left out to dry. It was still lying there on Saturday morning, and had nothing to do with the murder, despite lurid press reports the killer had left it behind.. This supported the next witness, John Pizer, a shoemaker from Mulberry Street. He'd been arrested for his own safety by Detective Sargeant William Thicke – who earned his nickname when a prostitute once greeted him, "“Why fuck me, if it isn't Johnny Upright!”. The terrified cobbler was well known about Whitechapel as “Leather Apron”, and despite headlines nicknaming the killer “Leather Apron”, the police had cleared Mr. Pizer. He had been known to frequent prostitutes, to threaten them with knives and tell them "I'll rip you!" But he was testifying to “vindicate my character to the world at large” - and to discourage the vigilante street gangs which had been threatening to cut his throat. With no mention of his predilections, the inquest moved on. The next witness returned to events that did happen on the morning of 8 September, 1888. And again, Dr. Phillip's reputation did not come out well in what they saw and heard.
As the clock atop the Black Eagle Brewery struck 5:30 a.m. - 7 minutes after sunrise - Mrs. Elizabeth Long was walking south on Brick Lane. She then turned west on Hanbury Street, heading to the Spitsfield Market, on Commercial Street. Just before reaching Number 29 Hanbury, Elizabeth passed a man and woman in loud conversation on the building side of the sidewalk. They were facing each other and Mrs. Long had a good look at the woman's face. After viewing the body in the morgue, Elizabeth had positively identified her as Annie Chapman.
The man had his back to Mrs. Long, but she described him as not much more than 5 feet tall (Annie Chapman was just 5 feet), about 40 years old, wearing a dark overcoat and a brown deerstalker hat. He was, she thought, foreign looking with a dark complexion and a “shabby genteel” appearance. She distinctly heard the man say - in a “foreign accent” - “Will you?” To which she heard Dark Annie respond, “Yes.” Elizabeth took little notice of the two. Later, when news of the murder spread like wildfire through the market, Elizabeth Long realized what she had seen and heard might be important
That same morning, carpenter Albert Cadoche was hurrying to the privy in the back yard of 27 Hanbury Street. He was suffering from a UTI – a urinary tract infection. A few painful moments later he was returning to the back door when he distinctly heard a woman say, “No”. Albert also took little notice, and was not even certain which direction the voice had come from. But UTI's being what they are, within a few minutes Albert was making the same round trip again. This time, on his way to the outhouse, he heard something thud against the 5 foot high fence dividing the back yard of number 27 from the yard of number 29.
A few moments later, as Albert was walking down Fournier street (above), he saw the clock atop the Christ's Church Spitafields tower (below). He said it read 5:32 am.
The times did not match up, and they are all at odds with Dr. Phillip's time chart. But... If Elizabeth Long did see Annie Chapman and her killer reaching a business arraignment closer to 5:15 a.m....And if Albert Cadoche heard the thud against the fence about 5:25 a.m....And if the Christ's Church clock (above) actually read closer to 5:42 a.m...Then Annie Chapman died about 5:30 a.m.. And that would have left the murderer 15 to 20 minutes to mutilate the body and leave the house with his bloody trophy before John Davis discovered the dead woman. Could both these witnesses be that far off in their timing?
Before the second half of the 20th century all clocks were mechanical, and effected by wear, temperature, humidity, maintenance, and their purpose. The clock in the Spitafields Church was a call to prayer. The Black Eagle Brewery clock (above, right) was designed to make the name ubiquitous in Whitechapel. Neither clock was meant to be accurate, in the modern meaning of that word. And the witnesses did not carry their own watches. To them, time was not a second by second measurement of their lives. Besides, the important thing about all three stories is not the exact time they occurred, but the place in which they occurred.
The back yard of 29 Hanbury Street (above) was empty when John Richardson left about 5 or 10 minutes before 5:00 a.m. While he was there Annie Chapman was still alive - at least half an hour after Dr. Phillips said she must already be dead. But she must have been within half a mile of the spot, because she was found there dead, just before 6:00 am. And...
Either the killer left the yard by climbing over the 5 foot high fence and then running between yards (above) – odd enough behavior to attract attention in a crime ridden area. Or, the stranger walked out the front door, something which would attract no more notice at Number 29 Hanbury Street then a figure sleeping on the stairs of a building in George Yard.
So it is likely Annie Chapman entered the backyard of number 29 Hanbury Street (above) between 5:00 am and 5:30 am - which roughly supports both John Richardson's and Elizabeth Long's stories. Dark Annie was found dead in the yard between 5:30 and 6:00 am, which roughly fits Albert Cadoche's time line. But none of the witnesses support Dr. Phillips estimate.
Coroner Wayne Baxter (above) would later say at the inquest, “It is true that Dr. Phillips thinks that when he saw the body at 6.30 the deceased had been dead at least two hours, but he admits that the coldness of the morning and the great loss of blood may affect his opinion; and if the evidence of the other witnesses be correct, Dr. Phillips has miscalculated the effect of those forces...” In fact, the good doctor had been recalled on Wednesday, 19 September. He was pressed to provide more details about the mutilations, and resisted until all women and children had left the room – children? At a grisly murder inquest? And did the Victorian doctor think women were unaware of the existence of a womb withing their own bodies?
It is understandable that Dr. George Phillips (above) might be trying to protect evidence only the killer would know, but the jury wanted to know, and Dr. Phillips was forced to reply. The details of the cuts to the vagina and bladder went on the record - and in the newspapers. But he was able to protect that the womb had been removed, saying only, “One of the organs was entirely absent from the body”. And then Dr. Phillips added, “The appearance of the cut surfaces indicated that the instrument used must have been very sharp, and showed a certain amount of anatomical knowledge.”
Combined with his testimony of Monday, 10 September (above) - “Obviously the work was that of an expert...” - and his belief the weapon was “...a doctor's knife, or the kind of knife used in a slaughter house or by a butcher”, makes Dr. Phillips the “ad fontem” - the original source - of Jack the Ripper as a professional man, someone – pardon the expression – a cut above the mass of Whitechapel uneducated working poor.
And from this bit of Victorian bias was born the century long industry of the killer as a doctor, an actor, a painter, an intellectual, a detective or even a member of royalty. It made a lot of money for a lot of people, most as yet unborn in 1888. But it disguised the killer who moved about Whitechapel as only a resident of Whitechapel could - unseeen because he was unremarkable.
And Dr. Phillips offered yet another misdirection to the mystery. When asked by Coroner Wayne Baxter how long it would have taken to performed the mutilations, Dr. Phillips said, “I myself could not have performed all the injuries I saw on that woman, even without a struggle, under a quarter of an hour. If I had done it in the deliberate manner usual with a surgeon, it would probably have taken me the best part of an hour. The conclusion I came to was that the whole object of the operation was to obtain possession of a certain portion of the body.”
It added to the mystery. It enforced the image of the killer as a calculating fiend. It implied he was searching for one particular organ - the womb. But was it not more likely the killer sliced that organ from Annie Chapman's body without knowing what specific organs he was removing? Then he would not be a doctor fiend, or a slaughterhouse mad man, but rather just a mad man, what modern criminology would call a disorganized serial killer, who left his physiological diagnosis on display at the murder scene.
At the final session of the inquest into the death of the second victim, Polly Nichols...and after 4 days of testimony in the still open inquest of Annie Chapman's murder....and with the case of Martha Tabaum still unsolved, Coroner Baxter seemed to sense the horror that was yet to come. “I suggest,” he told the jury in the Nichol's case , “...these... women may have been murdered by the same man with the same object...and having failed in the open street he tries again, within a week...in a more secluded place....the audacity and daring is equal to its maniacal fanaticism and abhorrent wickedness...but one thing is very clear - that a murder of a most atrocious character has been committed.”
And would be committed again, and again, and again.